Extra Points: Eagles should keep Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz's Eagles' tenure may not be over after all.
According to a recent report by Eagles Radio Network sidine reporter, Howard Eskin, the veteran tight end is scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex this week with 89 other players for the first workout of the Nick Sirianni era on Wednesday morning.
It could be strictly a monetary move, considering Ertz would be subject to a daily fine if he didn't show up. But it also provides a ray of hope that the Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie have come to their senses and have decided to keep one of the best tight ends - Keith Jackson and the late Pete Retzlaff are also in the conversation - in franchise history.
There's no denying Ertz had a terrible season in 2020. He had just 36 receptions - tying his career low set as a rookie in 2013 - to go with career lows of 335 receiving yards and one touchdown. But there were several contributing factors that included quarterback Carson Wentz's alarming regression and an ankle injury that caused him to miss five games.
The failure of Eagles' management and Ertz's agent to come to terms on a contract extension prior to last season also exacted a mental and emotional toll that became apparent at season's end. After the Eagles' controversial loss to Washington, Ertz remained on the field with Wentz and center Jason Kelce for more than an hour, then delivered a tearful, end-of-the-season press conference the next day.
"I think this city is the best city to play for and I couldn't have asked for a better experience," Ertz said after the game. "The city means a lot to me, means a lot to my family, and I'm thankful."
Of course, there is still a chance the Eagles could trade or release him before the 2021 season-opener at Atlanta on Sept. 12. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.5 million this season. Trading or cutting him would save that amount in cap space.
But Ertz's value to the team extends beyond receptions and touchdowns. The 30-year-old is considered one of the most respected veterans on the team, along with Kelce, tackle Lane Johnson, defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and safety Rodney McLeod. That leadership would be more valuable than ever this season for Sirianni, who at 40 is only four years older than new Eagles backup quarterback Joe Flacco, has never been a head coach on any level, and whose strange way of measuring competitiveness has been engaging players in games of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
It continued during the offseason workouts. Practices included showdowns at the JUGS machine for receivers, basketball shootouts, and even games of ping pong.
"That's the philosophy," Siranni said last month. "There are two major things that we always talk about: getting better at your craft and then practicing competing."
No one is better at their craft than Ertz, who when healthy is still among the NFL's top tight ends.
If he stays with the Eagles, he has a chance to become the teams' alltime leader in career receptions. He enters with 561 catches, 28 behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael (589).
Even Roseman admitted as much during the offseason.
"(Ertz) isn't a guy in the twilight of his career," Roseman said. "He's a guy still in his prime. A year ago at this time everyone was talking about where he ranked with the top tight ends in the league. So we feel really good about the kind of player he is and we have to do what's best for our team as well."
If you want to do what's best, keep Ertz.
You already made a horrendous decision by firing coach Doug Pederson, who deserved at least one more year. Don't make it worse.
Local NFL connections
Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jack Crawford leads a list of five former Cape-Atlantic League players who will also be reporting to training camps this week.
Crawford (St. Augustine Prep), who lives in the Seaview Harbor section of Egg Harbor Township, is entering his 10th NFL season. Retired linebacker George Jamison (Bridgeton), who spent 12 seasons with Detroit and Kansas City (1987-98) is believed to have the local record for longevity. Crawford was tied for second with Mainland Regional grad Greg Buttle and Atlantic City High alum Wayne Colman. Buttle played linebacker for nine seasons with the Jets (1976-84) and Colman was a linebacker for nine years (1968-76) with the Eagles and New Orleans.
In addition to Crawford, other former CAL players headed to training camp include Pittsburgh defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson (Absegami, Galloway Township), Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Jamil Demby (Vineland), New York Giants defensive tackle Austin Johnson (St. Augustine, Galloway Township) and Jacksonville rookie defensive lineman Kenny Randall (Mainland Regional, Mays Landing).
In other local football news, Cape May resident Colin Thompson is starting his second season as a tight end with Carolina. He is also Lower Cape May Regional High School's offensive coordinator.
Running back Wes Hills (Wildwood) is about to begin his first season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. They open their season on Thursday, Aug. 5 at Winnipeg.