What Would Zach Ertz Mean to Bills?

The Eagles tight end could add to an already explosive offense.
Author:
Publish date:

Even after the Buffalo Bills appeared to break off the early chase for Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz by signing free agent Jacob Hollister to pair with Dawson Knox, they remained linked to Ertz, who is still available on the trade market at a price that keeps dropping with every week that he remains on the market.

Knox is a third-year player whose best seasons are likely ahead of him. But he hasn't threatened to be the kind of prolific receiver Ertz was long before his 116 receptions in 2018 set the NFL's single-season record for tight ends.

In fact, Hollister (four seasons, 50 games) and Knox (two seasons, 27 games) have combined to catch just 10 more passes in their careers than Ertz did in 16 games in 2018.

So what's holding the Bills back?

There are several factors to consider.

Draft capital

One of the reasons the Eagles haven't been able to trade Ertz, who missed a career-high five games while catching a career-low 36 passes last year, is because they reportedly were hoping for a premium draft pick in return for the 30-year-old.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane, wisely gauging the market, was not about to surrender that kind of ransom for such a contract that brings a $12.7 million salary cap charge in 2021.

Salary cap

As mentioned above, without an adjustment to Ertz's contract, which features two voidable years after 2021, he would eat up all of Buffalo's $11.3 million in cap space and then some.

The Bills are not in a position to acquire Ertz without a major contract adjustment or an extension that would lower his cap charge significantly.

Risk

Ertz is 30 and coming off a season in which he suffered a high ankle sprain and caught only 50% of his 72 targets for 335 yards and one touchdown while averaging 9.3 yards per reception.

Every stat is a career low.

Fit

For the record, Knox did not seem put off or threatened by the prospect of adding Ertz when asked about it on Thursday.

"Whoever they bring in, that's just great competition for the room," he said. "I love that Jacob is here. I've enjoyed getting to know him.

"... No matter who they bring in, it just elevates everyone's level of play. No matter who they bring in, whether it's a rookie or an All-Pro like Zach, I think it'll be great just to elevate competition. Iron sharpens iron.

If the Bills believe Ertz can help them win more games than they would without him this year, they should consider circling back to him and seeing if the Eagles are more realistic about their price.

But they are in no position to overspend the way, say, AFC East rival New York can, sitting at $26 million under the cap and with a general manager (Joe Douglas) who has a great relationship with the Eagles.

Beane has to remain disciplined here, and there's no evidence to suggest he'll panic into anything foolish.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.