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What the Eagles should do at tight end

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Detroit Lions v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Today we continue our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series by examining the tight end position. Previously: Defensive end | Defensive tackle | Linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver.

THE PLAYERS

ZACH ERTZ

STATS: 635 snaps, 72 targets, 36 receptions, 335 yards, 9.3 average, 1 TD ... 4 drops

REVIEW: Ertz and the Eagles discussed a contract extension at one point last offseason before talks eventually broke off. Ertz let his frustrations with the team be known during a press conference prior to Week 1. Ertz then struggled to produce at his normal level before suffering an ankle injury in Week 6. The Eagles placed Ertz on injured reserve prevented them from moving him ahead of the trade deadline, which was a rumored possibility. Ertz returned to action in Week 13 but never really made much of an impact outside of a nice 69-yard performance in Week 15. The veteran ended up having the worst season of his career. After the Eagles’ Week 17 game, Ertz sat on the sideline with Carson Wentz and Jason Kelce in what seemed like the trio spending one last moment on the field as teammates together. Ertz then got emotional in his post-season press conference, signaling how he feels he won’t be back with the Eagles in 2021.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles can trade or release Ertz to clear about $4.7 million in cap space this offseason. Ertz is reportedly drawing interest from other teams, which suggests there’s some kind of market for his services. The tricky thing about trading him, though, is that the Eagles can’t benefit from the cap space clearance until AFTER the new league year begins. And so the Eagles won’t be able to trade Ertz if they can’t get under the cap without cutting him. It’s a shame Ertz’s time in Philly is coming to an end but it’s the right move for the Eagles to turn the page on the 30-year-old.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Zach Ertz: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Stay
    (502 votes)
  • 79%
    Go
    (1900 votes)
2402 votes total Vote Now

DALLAS GOEDERT

STATS: 604 snaps, 65 targets, 46 receptions, 524 yards, 11.4 average, 3 TD ... 2 drops

REVIEW: Goedert got off to a good start before suffering a calf injury in Week 3. Goedert returned to action after missing four games but wasn’t really himself again until after the Week 9 bye. On the positive side, Goedert posted a career-high 11.4 yards per reception mark in 2020. On the negative side, he didn’t really prove himself capable as a high-volume producer in the mold of Ertz.

OUTLOOK: After three seasons in Philly, Goedert has never logged more than 607 yards in a single season. Perhaps the 26-year-old is bound to explode with Ertz’s expected exit. There should be more opportunity for Goedert, who is obviously skilled. He’s a big target who is a threat to pick up yards after the catch and excels as a blocker. Still, we’ve yet to see him thrive as a full-time top target as Ertz has been. It’s a bit of a projection to say there will be no drop-off. Goedert inspires hope but we’ll need to see exactly how he fits in a new offensive system. Not to mention how he potentially jibes with a new starter in Jalen Hurts. Goedert is in the last year of his deal so the Eagles could be talking to his camp about an extension assuming they want him around as a long-term fixture.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Dallas Goedert: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (2228 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (56 votes)
2284 votes total Vote Now

RICHARD RODGERS

STATS: 274 snaps, 31 targets, 24 receptions, 345 yards, 14.4 average, 2 TD ... 1 drop

REVIEW: The Eagles brought Dick Rod back for his fourth stint in Philly early last season. It ended up being a decent signing with Ertz and Goedert both suffering injuries! Rodgers experienced the second-best season of his career. In what should serve as a huge indictment on the quality of the Eagles’ roster, he was one of the most efficient offensive options last year.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles could do worse than to bring back Rodgers on the minimum. Ideally, though, they’ll be looking to churn the bottom of the roster and not bring back a 29-year-old without upside.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Richard Rodgers: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Stay
    (1175 votes)
  • 43%
    Go
    (897 votes)
2072 votes total Vote Now

JASON CROOM

STATS: 13 snaps, 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards, 1 TD

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Croom to their practice squad in late September. The 26-year-old saw some limited playing time with the team being so banged up at tight end. Croom caught a wide-open touchdown pass in Week 6, prompting fans to wonder who the heck this guy even was.

OUTLOOK: Croom is under contract for 2021. The Eagles can keep him to compete for a roster spot if they really want.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Jason Croom: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Stay
    (447 votes)
  • 74%
    Go
    (1296 votes)
1743 votes total Vote Now

CALEB WILSON

STATS: 9 snaps, 0 targets

REVIEW: The Eagles claimed 2019 Mr. Irrelevant, son of former Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson, in early August. They kept him on the practice squad for most of the season.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles can give Wilson a chance to compete for a roster spot. But he’s probably just a camp body who might be in danger of getting cut if they’re looking to clear up space for UDFA signings.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Caleb Wilson: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Stay
    (122 votes)
  • 92%
    Go
    (1436 votes)
1558 votes total Vote Now

HAKEEM BUTLER

STATS: 1 snap, 1 target, 0 receptions

REVIEW: The Eagles poached Butler from the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad in late September. They announced they’d be transitioning the 2019 fourth-round pick from wide receiver to tight end. Injuries to both Ertz and Goedert forced the Eagles to keep Butler active for a couple of games. Butler played his very first NFL snap (including preseason) when the Eagles brought him in for a 4th-and-goal situation in Week 7 and threw a fade to him that was easily broken up. A truly bizarre play. The Eagles waived Butler not too long after and re-signed him to their practice squad. Butler signed a futures contract after the season.

OUTLOOK: This will mark Butler’s first full offseason as a tight end. People once thought highly of his potential so maybe there’s hope the 24-year-old can turn into a useful player. He’ll be competing for a spot on the roster as a No. 3 tight end. The odds are probably stacked against him.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Hakeem Butler: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Stay
    (601 votes)
  • 61%
    Go
    (951 votes)
1552 votes total Vote Now

TYREE JACKSON

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Jackson, a former quarterback, to a futures contract after the season.

OUTLOOK: Jackson is an intriguing lottery ticket. Maybe the 23-year-old can follow in the footsteps of Logan Thomas and develop into a quality tight end. Such growth might take time, though, and this will be Jackson’s first offseason playing his new position. Hard to assume he’ll be good enough to make the 2021 roster but the Eagles might look to keep him around on the practice squad.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Tyree Jackson: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Stay
    (579 votes)
  • 59%
    Go
    (866 votes)
1445 votes total Vote Now

JOSH PERKINS

REVIEW: Perkins spent the entire 2020 season on injured reserve after suffering an upper body injury in training camp.

OUTLOOK: Perkins is set to be a restricted free agent. There’s no chance the Eagles will tender him since that would cost over $2 million. If they want to re-sign Perk for the minimum, whatever, but they should really be looking to churn the bottom of the roster better than that. Not like there’s major upside here with a guy who turns 28 in August. Boy, this section is way longer than it should be.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Josh Perkins: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Stay
    (245 votes)
  • 82%
    Go
    (1166 votes)
1411 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

Might the Eagles look to reacquire Philly Special thrower Trey Burton? He spent time with new head coach Nick Sirianni and new tight ends coach Jason Michael in Indy last year. He turns 30 in October but he should be affordable as a No. 2 or No. 3 tight end.

Mo Alie-Cox also has familiarity with Sirianni and Michael. He’s a restricted free agent and the Colts have ample cap space so they might just keep him. If he isn’t tendered, though, the Eagles could gauge his price.

NFL DRAFT APPROACH

There’s some thought that the Eagles should take Kyle Pitts at No. 6 overall. BGN’s Ben Natan made the case earlier this offseason:

Seeing that Nick Sirianni is a disciple of Frank Reich, he will probably love multiple tight end sets. With Zach Ertz’ future up in the air, it’s tempting to imagine Kyle Pitts coming into this offense. Pitts is a true chess piece for an offensive mind to move around an offense. He can line up out wide, in the slot, in the backfield or inline as a typical tight end. His freakish speed and above the rim ball skills make him an enticing prospect. Him and Dallas Goedert would create havoc in this offense.

I don’t doubt Pitts’ talent but I do question the use of resources here. The Eagles’ offensive struggles in recent years have coincided with an obnoxious use of 12 personnel relative to the rest of the league. This isn’t to say two tight end sets were solely to blame but they certainly factored in.

I also can’t help but think about how terrific tight ends can be found later in the draft. Ertz was a second-round pick. Rob Gronkowski was a second-round pick. Hunter Henry was a second-round pick. Travis Kelce was a third-round pick. Austin Hooper was a third-round pick. George Kittle was a fifth-round pick. Darren Waller was a sixth-round pick.

The NFL’s highest-paid tight end that was a first-round pick is ... Eric Ebron, who is on his third different team and owns the 17th highest average salary. I suspect the Detroit Lions regret drafting Ebron ahead of Aaron Donald.

So, not really on board with a tight end at No. 6. If Pitts can truly be more than that and serve as a real receiver à la Chase Claypool, perhaps that changes the conversation. The Eagles should have good insight to Pitts given his Philly roots and Brian Johnson serving as Florida’s offensive coordinator last year.

The guess here is the Eagles will look to address tight end at some point after the first round. Most likely on Day 3.