The 2021 Draft came and went without a deal to trade Zach Ertz. June 1st cuts came and went, again with no movement on the Ertz front. Now as training camps are right around the corner it seems like a deal will have to get done in the next couple of weeks.
Ertz struggled last season as he posted a PFF score of 57.3, the first time in his career he finished with anything lower than a 70. That’s quite an impressive streak considering he was drafted in 2013. The thirty-year-old is unhappy with his current deal in Philadelphia, which has two years left, and the team may be looking to recoup some sort of value in return for their Pro Bowl tight end.
The front office is looking to reach an extension with heir apparent Dallas Goedert who is on the last year of his rookie deal. The team appears to be trying to get that completed prior to the start of the 2021; however, Goedert may be willing to stall negotiations as a bet on himself. Hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent, Goedert could command elite tight end money or force the Eagles to use a franchise tag on him.Embed from Getty Images
Two forces seem to be emerging more as the season creeps up. First is that the Eagles will look to salvage whatever value they can for Ertz and try to get the counterparty to eat some of the cap losses. He poses a cap hit of roughly $12.7M and cutting him would yield a deal cap loss of $7.7M as per Spotrac.
The second force is that teams devoid of tight end talent and believe themselves to be either in full contention or on the brink of being a contender will look to make one last move prior to the start of camp. The free agent market at tight end is thin with the available names being Trey Burton, Tyler Eifert, Jesse James, and Darren Fells.
The only reason why a deal has not been done yet is because the front office in Philadelphia has been unhappy with interest and offers thus far, but their perspective will change heading into late July and so will that of other front offices.
Who are the teams most likely to pull off a trade for Zach Ertz?
As per Spotrac, Buffalo has over $9M in cap room and would be inclined to rework a deal with Ertz that would include more money and maybe an additional year. Josh Allen is still on a rookie contract and the time to invest around him is now. The tight end position has been used heavily in this offense, but the statistical production from the group as been subpar. Their tight ends combined for eight touchdowns and under 500 yards receiving last year. The current depth chart looks to be Dawson Knox and Jacob Hollister, after Lee Smith and Tyler Kroft left at the end of 2020. A trade for Zach Ertz gives them a true pass catching tight end, who’s blocking would be a secondary contribution to the team.
Los Angeles Rams:
Los Angeles only had a second round pick this year, which they spent on Tutu Atwell. This adds a new element to Sean McVay’s offense, but they still haven’t made up for the offseason loss of tight end Gerald Everett who signed with Seattle. The Rams are not shy about sacrificing draft capital to bring in veterans who then want a re-worked contract and Ertz would come substantially cheaper than previous acquisitions Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford. Their current depth chart is really only Tyler Higbee, who had a great connection with Jared Goff, but not even their relationship could halt the decline in production from the tight end who’s PFF declined from 86.1 in 2019 to 69.2 in 2020. The Rams have an estimated $7.6M in cap space (Spotrac), so they do have some room to maneuver. A trade for Zach Ertz would be right up McVay’s alley as they are in a clear win now mode.
Tennessee pulled off the big trade of the offseason as they landed Julio Jones to team up with A.J. Brown, in the wake of losing Corey Davis to the Jets in free agency. However, they still haven’t replaced Jonnu Smith and landing Ertz could give them yet another mismatch nightmare. They have close to $9M in cap room and their current depth chart consists of Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim, neither of which are the pass catching threats that Ertz is when healthy. It could be another trade with a lot of upside, but very little risk taken on by the team.
New York Jets:
New head coach Robert Saleh saw first-hand what a pass catching tight end can do for an offense during his time in San Francisco witnessing the monster production of George Kittle. They currently have Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, and Tyler Kroft on the depth chart, but it seems like Herndon is falling out of favor. He’s a potential cut in training camp and both Kroft and Griffin are solid depth pieces, but they’re not a legitimate mismatch threat for opposing defenses. Ertz would give them a viable top-end target for their rookie quarterback Zack Wilson. Spotrac estimates that they have over $34M in available cap space. Rookie quarterbacks always love throwing to a tight end.
Arizona has shown that they’re not afraid of taking a chance on an oft-injured veteran. They brought in A.J. Green and J.J. Watt as they look to take advantage of having Kyler Murray on his rookie deal. They’re projected to possess over $10M in cap room, with the tight end depth chart currently featuring Maxx Williams and Darrell Daniels. Adding Ertz to the mix with Green, DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds, would be a great opportunity for not only the team but also for Ertz as he looks to revive his spot as an elite tight end.