Eagles Need to Find Way to Pay Zach Ertz

Ed Kracz

If the Eagles plan on hanging on to tight end Zach Ertz, they are going to have to pay him more than what they are paying him now.

The team picked up Ertz’s 2021 option on Thursday, but that was a mere formality. One of the best tight ends in the league is set to make $8 million this year and $8.25M in 2021.

Nowhere near good enough.

The two sides have been trying to hammer out a contract extension since last year. Ertz turned a deal down last fall when the team was busy extending contracts to offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, kicker Jake Elliott, and long snapper Rick Lovato.

The Eagles wanted to sign Ertz in that November flurry, but it didn’t happen. It isn’t clear as to extension’s terms.

The two sides are continuing contract negotiations, but Ertz could be waiting to see how much George Kittle gets paid.

The San Francisco 49ers tight end is in the final year of his contract and is widely considered the top tight end in the league, though Ertz isn’t far behind.

Travis Kelce is in that group, too. The Chiefs’ tight end is set to make $8M this season.

Both Kelce and Ertz are close to the same age, with Kelce having a year on Ertz, who turns 30 in November while Kelce will be 31 in October. Kittle is just 26 and headed for a big pay day.

Austin Hooper, who is just 25, but hasn’t quite had the breakout seasons that Ertz, Kittle, and Kelce have had, got rich this offseason, signing a four-year deal with the Cleveland Browns worth $42M and $23M guaranteed. Hooper received a $10M signing bonus.

Certainly, Ertz belongs to be one of the top five paid tight ends in the league.

Ertz has caught 525 passes in an Eagles uniform, putting him 65 away from breaking Harold Carmichael's 37-year-old franchise record of 589. Ertz has caught at least 70 passes every season since 2015, putting him on pace to assume the top spot in 2020.

Last year, he was the sixth-highest paid behind Jimmy Graham ($10M), Kelce ($9.4), Jordan Reed ($9.4M), Kyle Rudolphs ($9M), and Greg Olsen ($8.6M).

Ertz made $8.5 as did Delanie Walker.

When you’re in the same neighborhood as Trey Burton, who made $8M last year, then you’re not being paid enough.

Of course, the same was said for Malcolm Jenkins.

Each year free agent safeties were signed to more than what Jenkins was making until, eventually, the veteran safety slipped out of the top 10 highest paid safeties in the league despite consistently being one of the top five best players at his position.

The Eagles never got an extension done with Jenkins and now he’s in New Orleans.

"The hardest part of this job is the fact that you have to make tough decisions, and you have to figure out where you're going do that,” said general manager Howie Roseman on a conference call with reporters on Thursday when asked about Jenkins’ departure.

“When you have people and players who have given the team so much, and really the city so much, and me personally so much, these are hard things to do. We're trying to balance what we can do this year and what we can do going forward.”

The concern about extending Ertz is the development of Dallas Goedert, who is four years younger than Ertz and is due to be paid again soon. Goedert is in the third year of a four-year rookie contract.

Now, the Eagles could pay both tight ends big money, but that would mean they have to go cheap somewhere else.

Perhaps it will be at the receiver position, where DeSean Jackson has just two years left on a deal that still owes him $20M and Alshon Jeffery is likely in his final year with the Eagles, if he even makes it that far.

To go cheap at receiver means the Eagles will have to find good ones in the draft, players whose relatively cheaper rookie contracts will go for four years, five if selected in the first round.

Whichever way the Eagles do it, they need to find a way to pay Ertz.

Or trade him.

They cannot afford to have him walk away as a free agent and get nothing back in return.

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