NFL insider Michael Silver shared an interesting tidbit while talking about the tight end market on NFL Network this week. According to Silver, Zach Ertz turned down a “lucrative” contract extension offer from the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2019 NFL season.
“That other sound you hear is Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle marching into headquarters — in keeping with the times, storming around their respective houses while talking on the phone to their agents going ‘Show me the money!’
And deservedly so, because Austin Hooper earned that deal, but Zach Ertz, who turned down a deal more lucrative than that during the season last year, he’s in line to get more in Philly.
Travis Kelce, when he’s not celebrating his Super Bowl like few others, he’s obviously earned a big raise.
And, George Kittle’s the one to me that, you know, I don’t think you can just pay him like the best tight end in football. He is so important as a blocker. We’ve seen metrics where their running game does statistically when he’s in versus when he’s not in. And he’s amazing after the catch. You could argue that his importance to them as a receiver is like a No. 1 wide receiver’s. He’s almost like an honorary tackle. So, they’re going to have to pay him, and they’re going to have to pay him a lot. And I just don’t think you can apply normal tight end standards to this unique player.”
For context, Hooper just signed a four-year, $42 million contract worth $23 guaranteed with the Cleveland Browns earlier this week. That $10.5 million annual salary puts him second among all NFL tight ends, just behind Hunter Henry’s recently achieved $10.6 million mark. So, depending on Silver’s definition of “more lucrative,” Ertz may have turned down an opportunity to be the NFL’s highest paid tight end.
It WAS previously reported back in November that the Eagles were discussing multiple extensions for players, including Ertz. The team signed Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson to long-term deals around that time.
But Ertz, who is currently signed through 2021, didn’t end up signing a new contract. And then he offered some curious comments during locker room clean-out day following the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Quote via Ed Kracz of EagleMaven:
“There’s a lot of free agents on this football team. I can only speak for myself and fact of the matter is that no one knows what’s going to happen, with me or with anyone. Probably the only one who knows for sure is Carson [Wentz]. It’s been an incredible seven years for me here. I want to be here forever. I hope I’m able to be here forever.
Whatever they’re going to decide they’re going to decide, but it’s been a heckuva run. I don’t ever want it to end because it’s been so much fun. I’ve grown so much here, my family’s grown so much here. So I can only speak for myself: I’m looking forward to next year playing here.”
Hm. Why would a key starter who’s signed through two more years entertain the idea he might not be back? Perhaps he’s anticipating that something could happen if him and the team can’t get on the same page about extension terms?
For what it’s worth, Eagles executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman downplayed Ertz’s comments back in January.
“I think that from our perspective, one, I think just talking to Zach over the last couple days, Zach’s got two years left on his contract. He’s a guy that’s had a tremendous career. He’s got a chance to not only go in the Eagles Hall of Fame, but really, the NFL Hall of Fame.
I think our goal is to keep our home-grown players here. I don’t think — I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but just having conversations — I don’t think it was meant to be reflected about concern about his immediate future.”
The feeling here is that the Eagles will not be moving on from Ertz this offseason. They’re not cutting him, obviously. And a pre-June 1 trade accounts for $13.6 million in dead money with a loss of $1.1 million in cap space.
Even putting financial ramifications aside, this is a player that’s highly valued by the organization. Ertz is on pace to overtake the legendary Harold Carmichael as the Eagles’ all-time leader in total receptions. Ertz broke the NFL’s single-season record for tight end receptions in 2018. Ertz is the guy who caught the franchise’s only game-winning Super Bowl touchdown pass. Ertz is Carson Wentz’s favorite target and arguably the franchise quarterback’s best friend on the team. Ertz has been the Eagles’ leading receiving in each of the past four seasons dating back to 2016.
That last point might factor in to why Ertz reportedly turned down the Eagles’ extension offer. Just speculating here but the Eagles might be interested in paying him like an elite tight end while Ertz wants to be paid more along the lines of a true No. 1 receiver, which he effectively has been for the Eagles. Silver touched on this notion as it relates to Kittle in the transcription above.
But why should the Eagles be rushing to pay Ertz when he turns 30 in November and still has two seasons left on his contract? Well, the Eagles do prefer signing players to extensions earlier than later with the thinking that it’ll be more expensive the longer they wait. They don’t want to be in a situation like the Dallas Cowboys are (or were with Amari Cooper) with Dak Prescott, for example.
The thing is ... the goal of getting out in front of an increasing price tag makes more sense when it’s known that the player is definitely in the long-term plans. And should the Eagles really be making that decision now on Ertz when he has two years remaining and his potential successor in Dallas Goedert waiting in the wings? And if the Eagles do give Ertz a big extension, does that deter Goedert from signing a long-term deal with Philly? Keep in mind Goedert said last summer that he views himself as the NFL’s fourth best tight end. There are clearly a number of layers to consider here.
Ultimately, I do think the Eagles will sign Ertz to an extension at some point. So does Silver:
With Ertz previously turning down a lucrative offer and the tight end market only expected to increase, the Eagles figure to be paying out some record-breaking money.
Should the Eagles sign Zach Ertz to a contract extension with two years already left on his deal?
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