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How the George Kittle contract extension impacts the Eagles

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San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Big news in the NFL today as star tight end George Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers have reportedly agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $75 million with more than half guaranteed.

Kittle’s $15 million yearly average puts him wayyyyy out in front of other NFL tight end contracts. Previous market leader Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers now checks in at second place with a $10.6 million annual value.

It’s not a shocker that Kittle got paid this much. NFL Network’s Mike Silver previously talked about how Kittle’s camp viewed him as more than a mere tight end:

“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.”

Kittle’s extension obviously has an impact on the Philadelphia Eagles as they potentially try to reach another long-term agreement with Zach Ertz.

To recap, it was previously reported that Ertzturned down a deal more lucrative” than the $10.5 million average that the Cleveland Browns gave to Austin Hooper in free agency this year. I offered some extensive thoughts on the Ertz situation at the time that are still relevant now:

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.

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.

There’s thought that the Eagles shouldn’t extend Ertz and should instead trade him and move forward with Goedert. I just don’t think the Eagles will be so eager to make that happen. There’s definitely reason to be optimistic about Goedert’s potential. But unlike Ertz, he’s still unproven as a volume option. Then again, he won’t really get the chance to fully establish himself in that regard if Ertz remains around to block his path.

This is for certain: Ertz took notice of Kittle’s record-breaking extension today. And he clearly doesn’t think he ranks that far below him and the other top tight ends in the NFL:

Kittle got paid and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs is in line for a new deal as well. The market is going up. The Eagles felt enough pressure to make an offer to Ertz within the last year. Will the two sides find agreeable terms or will the Eagles try to slow play this thing?

We’ll have to see but the Kittle deal only helps Ertz’s case. He shouldn’t be making more than the 49ers tight end but he’s clearly going to push for more than what he was previously offered, meaning at least $11 million per year and quite possibly in the $12-to-$14 million range.

UPDATE: All eyes are now on Ertz with Kittle and Kelce getting paid.