The champions are almost all gone now.

Trading tight end Zach Ertz on Friday to Arizona leaves the Eagles with only a few players from the 2017 team that delivered a Super Bowl title to the city.

Defensive ends Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham, guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, kicker Jake Elliott, center Jason Kelce, tackle Lane Johnson, long snapper Rick Lovato, safety Rodney McLeod and guard Isaac Seumalo are the only ones left. They're the only players who danced and hugged under the confetti in Minnesota, who swigged beers and celebrated with fans during a parade and celebration on Broad Street.

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They're the only ones stood on a stage at the Art Museum and laughed while Kelce donned a Mummer's costume and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade at their critics.

It was only four years ago, but seems like 40.

The key players and coaches in that magical season, guys like Super Bowl hero Nick Foles, safety Malcolm Jenkins and head coach Doug Pederson, are gone.

And now Ertz is following them out the door of the NovaCare Complex, traded to the desert in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick and rookie cornerback Tay Gowan. Actually, he was shoved out by general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie, who decided Ertz - the most productive tight end in franchise history - wasn't worthy of a contract extension.

"It's a hard day in terms of why we did this," Roseman said Friday. "It was about opportunity. Opportunity for the Eagles, opportunity for Zach, as we move forward."

Roseman apparently broke the news to Ertz on Tuesday, two days before the Eagles' 28-22 loss to Tampa Bay. He responded with an impressive farewell.

Ertz scored the Eagles' first touchdown, catching a 5-yard pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts. He celebrated by slamming the ball to the turf with such force that it nearly bounced to the crossbar. After the game, he cried in front of his locker over the knowledge that he had played his last game at the Linc.

"(Scoring a touchdown) was awesome," Ertz said Friday. "I spiked that ball so hard, I think it disappeared. It was surreal. But it was emotional. I was crying in my locker for 30 minutes."

The spike served as an exclamation point on a terrific, nine-year career in Philly.

Ertz finished with a team-high four receptions against the Buccaneers had 18 receptions in six games. He exits with 579 career catches, good for second place on the team's alltime list behind former wide receiver Harold Carmichael's 589.

"At the end of the day, we're 11 catches away from the record," Ertz said with a smile. "And who knows, maybe I'll come back and get 12 catches and Harold (Carmichael) can go to No. 2. But I'll let him have it for a few more years, I guess, maybe forever."

Not everyone can play in Philadelphia. You need skin thicker than a crocodile's to weather the cold on the field and the heat in the stands. You have to be able to handle the boos when you drop a pass, strike out with the bases loaded, or clank free throws.

Ertz, 30, wasn't sure he'd be able to handle it when he first arrived as a second-round draft pick in 2013 out of Stanford University.

"Coming from California, the first year was tough," he said. "We played against Detroit that year in a snowstorm and I was like, 'Man, I don't know if I can do this.' I come out after pregame warmups and there's a foot of snow on the ground. (Former Eagles running back) LeSean (McCoy) can do whatever he wants that day and I'm just by the heater."

McCoy rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-20 win on Dec. 8, 2013. Ertz did not catch a pass, one of only three times in eight-plus seasons he was shut out in a game.

But he grew acclimated to the elements. ... And the fans.

"These people love their team," Ertz said. "And they want to see us succeed as much if not more than we want to succeed. And so for me, it's what I loved about this place. People were honest. They're blunt. They don't care about you apologizing about a game on social media if you played poorly. They want to see you put in the work Monday through Saturday to get better for Sunday and for me that's why I think I resonated in this city because all I knew was how to work hard and that's why I love this place."

That is why this is a mistake.

With Ertz leaving, it's now left to guys Kelce and Cox to explain the Philly vibe to teammates and even the coaching staff. As Nick Sirannni will learn, it takes more than donning "Beat Dallas" and "Allen Iverson" t-shirts to win over the fan base.

It only cares about winning and at 2-4 - including an 0-3 record at the Linc - the Eagles aren't doing enough of it. And without Zach Ertz, it's not going to get any easier.

"I don't think it says anything about our outlook for the season," Roseman said. "We're still going and trying to win every game. And we have a lot of confidence in the young players."
What a croc.

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