Jason Michael Keeping Lines of Communication Open with Zach Ertz

It's still unlikely the top-tier tight end returns, but the Eagles' first-year TE coach is making sure he keeps in touch just in case
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PHILADELPHIA - Jason Michael doesn't have much of a say when it comes to Zach Ertz and the veteran tight end's future in Philadelphia.

The Eagles' new TEs coach, however, has made sure that the foundation for a relationship exists if Ertz and the Eagles' brass ultimately kiss and make up.

"I’ve had an opportunity throughout, early when we all first got here, had an opportunity to call and speak with Zach and have continued to stay in touch," Michael told SI.com's Eagle Maven on Tuesday. "Consistent communication with him throughout, so that’s been good just in terms of the conversations that we’ve had."

It remains unlikely that Ertz and general manager Howie Roseman find common ground for the 2021 season but the predictions of an imminent departure have proven to be premature and the calendar keeps churning and speeding toward the opening of training camp, expected to be on July 27.

What we do know is that the Eagles are planning for life after Ertz and trying to work out a big-money contract extension with new TE1 Dallas Goedert.

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Depth remains a concern, however, with lesser-experienced options like Jason Croom and Caleb Wilson batting with UDFA Jack Stoll and projects like Tyreek Jackson and Hakeem Butler in the hope to give Nick Sirianni and Michael some competency behind Goedert, who has quietly developed into one of the NFL's most well-rounded TEs in the shadow of Ertz, the franchise's No. 2 man in all-time receptions behind Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael.

"I think that’s what this time of the year is for," Michael said when discussing the young talent. "The guys that in there are doing a great job. They’re working hard to learn the system. We’re a long way away from training camp, we’re a long way away from the start of the season.

"The time we’ve been able to spend thus far, what all those guys in the room do from now until we get a chance to come back to training camp, and offseason have been modified slightly to how we’re doing things. When we get in pads that’s when we’ll get a true chance to evaluate these guys. Everyone in the room, to see who’s going to make those strides."

What would make Michael sleep a little more soundly is the realization that perhaps the best option for Ertz and the franchise at this stage would be for the veteran to play out the contract and hit free agency in the spring of 2022.

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According to a team source, the communication that Ertz has had with the Eagles coaching staff has clearly defined what his role would be, the TE2 behind the emerging Goedert.

"I just wanted to make sure that those lines of communication are open," said Michael. "I respect Zach Ertz as a player. If you’ve been in this thing long enough you remember those guys coming out. 

"When he came out of Stanford, evaluating, and just evaluating different tight ends over the years, I have great respect for him. He’s played winning football at a high level for a long time."

Any angst between Ertz and the organization has nothing to do with the new coaching staff, and Michael doesn't foresee any issues if fences are mended for the short term.

"In terms of difficulty, no," he said. "I look forward to an opportunity to work with him hopefully as it goes forward. I just want to make sure there’s communication there and that’s been positive."

Michael, though, isn't involved in the ultimate decision, something best evidenced when he was asked about another veteran TE, Richard Rodgers, who remains a free agent after doing yeoman work as an injury replacement for both Ertz and Goedert at times in the 2020 season.

"That's a question for Howie and coach Sirianni," said Michael.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.