Could the Eagles Really Trade Zach Ertz?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If you want to use the DEFCON alert system for the NFL Media report that Zach Ertz turned down an extension offer by the Eagles last season, you can go ahead and place a 5 next to it, the lowest state of “readiness.”
The veteran Eagles Pro Bowl tight end did indeed turn his nose up at an offer from Philadelphia, an NFL source confirmed to 973espn.com, but at this stage, it’s regarded as nothing more than negotiation from those in the know.
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with how the Eagles do business understands that since the days of Joe Banner, Philadelphia has been at the forefront at identifying core players and trying to extend them as early as possible on team-friendly deals.
The offer was described as “lucrative” by Mike Silver but no specifics at a position where Austin Hooper’s recent four-year, $42 million deal with the Cleveland Browns just set a new bar with the kicker being $23M in guarantees. The average annual value of Hooper’s contract ($10.5M) is a tad below the value of Hunter Henry’s franchise tag of $10.6M with the Los Angeles Chargers.
In theory, Ertz would like to go well higher than that as a much more productive player who got five years and $42M with half of that guaranteed the last time. He’s locked in through 2021 and the Eagles have a club option in 2022 so there’s no real hurry from either side.
The presence of Dallas Goedert does complicate things a bit as a second top-tier tight end entering the third year of his rookie deal. That means Goedert is only going to be cost-effective for two more seasons before cashing in at a time where Ertz will be north of 30.
More so, Doug Pederson’s default setting as a coach is 11 personnel so if the Eagles ever evaluate correctly at that particular position the need to have two really good tight ends eases a bit.
So would the Eagles really consider trading Ertz is his agent Steve Caric continues to play hardball with the understanding his client, along with George Kittle and Travis Kelce, will be defining the TE market soon enough?
The ludicrous -- like Ertz for Julio Jones -- has already been thrown against the wall during silly season.
Pointing to the outlandish, though, doesn’t obfuscate common sense.
“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,” Ertz told reporters back in January during the Eagles’ cleanout day after the playoff loss to Seattle. “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 are 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.”
In hindsight maybe that kind of foreshadowing should lower things to DEFCON-4.
The firewall, though, is a significant one in that peas in a pod aren’t quite as close as Wentz and Ertz. So, would Howie Roseman really break that up and upset the face of the franchise by not only moving on from a highly-productive player but one that is Wentz’s friend?
It’s actually already happened before with Jordan Matthews but Ertz is a tad more productive than that.
The asterisk should be placed, though. The Eagles targeted three high-level players for extensions last season and got two of them -- Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson -- done. The longer Ertz bets on himself, the bigger the numbers get and if Philadelphia actually finally finds some outside receivers, Roseman could rethink the plan.
Move it to DEFCON3.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com and SI.com. You can listen to John every day for "Football at Four: at 4 ET on ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey and reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen