Finding A Zach Ertz Destination

Months after Zach Ertz‘s name popped up in trade rumors, he remains with the Eagles. The three-time Pro Bowl tight end is not viewed as likely to be part of this year’s Philly team and did not report for the team’s offseason program. Despite a lengthy delay in this saga, a separation still feels imminent.

Ertz has one season left on the five-year, $42.5MM extension he signed way back in January 2016. The veteran lobbied for a new deal last year, but he and the Eagles could not agree on terms. Those disagreements became rather noticeable as well. Even if some suitors cannot presently afford Ertz’s $12.7MM cap number, which could cause the Eagles to finally release him, the team will likely try to work a trade for a bit longer.

Where will the 30-year-old pass catcher be come Week 1? Here are a few candidates:

Arizona Cardinals

This franchise has not shown a strong interest in bolstering this position in many years, and Kliff Kingsbury — with A.J. Green and Rondale Moore joining DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk — may well opt to deploy more four-receiver sets. That said, the Cardinals’ additions of Green, J.J. Watt, Rodney Hudson, Brian Winters and Malcolm Butler illustrate a commitment to adding veterans to help the cause in a loaded NFC West. The Cards, who have Maxx Williams (304 yards in two Arizona seasons) as their top tight end, have not had a tight end surpass 600 yards in a season since moving to Arizona in 1988.

Buffalo Bills

The team most closely connected to Ertz this offseason, Buffalo has not received much from the tight end position in recent years. And the defending AFC East champions have lacked a higher-end receiving threat at this spot for much of its existence. Five Ertz receiving totals would eclipse the best tight end showing (726 yards) in the Bills’ 61-season history. While the Bills’ Stefon DiggsEmmanuel SandersCole BeasleyGabriel Davis quartet leaves it well-stocked for aerial targets at present, the tight end position has come up as one the franchise would not mind bolstering.

Dawson Knox led Buffalo tight ends with 288 yards last season; the team lost Tyler Kroft in free agency and has second-year player Tommy Sweeney coming off a season in which he encountered severe COVID-19 issues. With the Bills in position to aim for a Super Bowl berth again, another weapon makes sense.

Indianapolis Colts

With Doug Pederson out of the NFL at the moment, the Colts serve as the reunion spot for Ertz. Carson Wentz played with Ertz for five seasons and helped him set a tight end record with 116 catches in 2018. Frank Reich coached Ertz the previous two years, and the Colts could certainly use another viable weapon — even if they figure to lean heavily on the run game.

Indianapolis re-signed T.Y. Hilton and has 2020 second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. coming off a promising finish to his rookie season, but the team has not been able to keep injury-prone ex-second-rounder Parris Campbell on the field. Ninth-year tight end Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox combined for just 645 yards last season. The Wentz trade, assuming he stays healthy for most of this season, will cost Indianapolis a first-round pick in 2022. Bringing in his former top target at a low cost would enhance the relocated QB’s comfort level and help justify the lofty investment.

Jacksonville Jaguars

This spot differs from the rest mentioned here, with the Jaguars coming off a 1-15 season and in clear rebuild mode. But Jacksonville drafted Trevor Lawrence and has no proven tight end to pair with him. The team leads the NFL in cap space ($38MM) as well.

Exiting draft weekend, Urban Meyer expressed concern about his team’s tight end depth chart. The Jags drafted Ohio State’s Luke Farrell in Round 5 and did go on to sign Tim Tebow. While this would seemingly not be a desirable spot for Ertz as a free agent, the Jags could make sense as an unorthodox trade destination.

Tennessee Titans

Ertz trade compensation would not approach what the Titans paid for Julio Jones, and even after acquiring the all-time Falcons great, the team was on the lookout for tight end assistance. The Titans lost Jonnu Smith and did not add a notable replacement. The Jones trade shows the Titans are committed to contending this season, even after losing Smith and Corey Davis. Even after a disappointing 2020 season, Ertz would provide a substantial upgrade over Anthony Firkser.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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