All eyes have turned to Zach Ertz now that George Kittle and Travis Kelce have agreed to contract terms that figure to reset the market.
Whereas Hunter Henry was previously the NFL’s highest paid tight end at $10.6 million annually, Kittle and Kelce are reportedly checking in at an average value of $15 million. Will Ertz soon be joining them?
The answer to that question appears to be “No” if we’re to go by what NFL insider Mike Garafolo had to say.
The #Eagles made a run at a Zach Ertz extension a while back when they redid a few deals. No dice. No indications anything is close now either. He has two years left on his deal and so does Dallas Goedert. https://t.co/nctkJ4Q8xi— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 13, 2020
As we noted earlier today, NFL Network previously reported Ertz turned down an Eagles contract offer that was “more lucrative” than $10.5 million per year. Exactly how much more lucrative? We don’t know. But after seeing the Kittle and Kelce terms, one would imagine the Eagles would need to get closer to that $15 million mark.
For more context, here’s a comparison of all three tight ends over the last three seasons.
Age: Turns 30 in Novmeber
Regular season: 401 targets, 278 recs, 2903 yards (10.4 Y/R), 22 TD
Playoffs: 41 targets, 30 recs, 338 yards (11.3 Y/R), 1 TD
YAC/REC: 39th out of 44 in 2019, 38th out of 41 in 2018, 42nd out of 50 in 2017
Age: Turns 31 in October
Career awards: Super Bowl champion, 5x Pro Bowl, 2x first-team All-Pro, 2x second-team All-Pro
Regular season: 398 targets, 283 recs, 3603 yards (12.7 Y/R), 23 TD (plus 1 rushing TD)
Playoffs: 41 targets, 33 recs, 404 yards (12.2 Y/R), 5 TD
YAC/REC: 32nd out of 44 in 2019, 13th out of 41 in 2019, 21st out of 50 in 2017
Age: Turns 27 in October
Career awards: 2x Pro Bowl, first-team All-Pro, second-team All-Pro
Regular season: 306 targets, 216 recs, 2945 yards (13.6 Y/R), 12 TD
Playoffs: 13 targets, 8 recs, 71 yards, 0 TD
YAC/REC: 3rd out of 44 in 2019, 1st out of 41 in 2018, 10th out of 50 in 2017
Ertz doesn’t have a case to be paid more than Kelce or Kittle but the numbers show he’s in the same ballpark.
There are multiple factors working against Ertz, however. One is that he’s just not as good of a blocker as Kelce and Kittle. That much is reflected by both the eye test and Pro Football Focus blocking grades. Ertz clearly also isn’t as much of a weapon with the ball in his hands, which is shown by his poor yards after catch per reception figures.
Then again, assuming Goedert can fully replace Ertz’s production is something of a projection. It’s one the Eagles can have some optimism about given the potential he’s shown but it’s by no means a sure thing.
One can also argue Ertz has leverage in that he’s the franchise quarterback’s most trusted target. And that’s hardly irrelevant given all the uninspiring and untrustworthy options Carson Wentz has had to work with. Ertz also boasts sentimental value — an admitted weakness by Howie Roseman — in that the team believes he can be a future Hall of Famer, he’s on pace to be their all-time receptions leader, and he caught the game-winning touchdown in the franchise’s only Super Bowl win. This is also a dude who played through a cracked rib and a lacerated kidney late last season. Ertz is far from being chopped liver to this organization.
But, as we all know, the Eagles have to be smart about how they spend moving forward. They’re currently projected to be $51 million over the cap next year and that’s before accounting for inevitable COVID-19 ramifications. Extending Ertz’s contract could serve to lower his $12.4 million cap figure in 2021, yes, but at the expense of tying up more guaranteed money in him for years to come.
The feeling here is that the Eagles shouldn’t be in a rush to extend Ertz at this point. He’s signed through 2021 so he has two years remaining on his current deal. It’s not like there’s a rush to get ahead of the market now that it has already been set so high.
The Eagles should see how the 2020 season plays out. Maybe the Eagles look to trade Ertz in 2021 if Goedert shows he’s capable of handling an even bigger role. Or maybe the Eagles decide they should keep both — an outcome the organization internally believes is at least possible — if their 12 personnel package proves to be very successful. Gathering data from the upcoming campaign can help the team decide what to do after the year is over.
Things could always change quickly but Garafolo’s reporting makes it sound like the Eagles are ready to slow play this situation.