Lane Johnson: 'You Never Know' on Zach Ertz

Against all odds, the Pro Bowl tight end is still an Eagle, and his teammate, among others, is hoping that continues through 2021
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PHILADELPHIA - Few expected Zach Ertz would still be a member of the Philadelphia Eagles at this point and even fewer believe the three-time Pro Bowl selection will suit up for the Birds in Week 1 of the 2021 season.

In this business, you never know, however. That's according to Ertz's long-time teammate, All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson.

"I feel like he thought he may be headed somewhere else but in this business, you really don't know what's gonna happen," Johnson said when talking with SI.com's Eagle Maven on BIRDS365 Thursday.

Johnson and Ertz arrived in Philadelphia together, just 34 picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. Johnson went fourth overall and Ertz 35th and they teamed to win a Super Bowl together.

If the Eagles can find that kind of 1-2 success in this draft, with two players coming at picks No. 12 and 37 that stay together for at least the eight years Johnson and Ertz have been together, and win a Super Bowl, well, that would be a huge accomplishment.

Trade rumors, however, have swirled around Ertz dating back to last season when a rift about a potential contract extension emerged between the veteran tight end and the organization.

An NFL source told SI.com's Eagle Maven that Philadelphia had conversations about Ertz with the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason. Prior to last season’s trade deadline, the Eagles had offers from the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers, but Ertz suffered a high ankle sprain and landed on short-term injured reserve, taking a potential deal off the table.

The Eagles gave Ertz's agent, Steve Caric, permission to seek a trade, after rumors surfaced that the tight end had become "increasingly impatient" with the franchise, according to NFL Media.

From Philadelphia's perspective, the organization continues to preach value in return for Ertz, believed to be a third-round pick for a player who has the record for most receptions by a tight end in a season in NFL history (116).

Philadelphia was able to get under the salary cap without moving Ertz so his $12,721,500 cap number for 2021 is baked into all the roster moves to date. An eventual trade would garner the Eagles over $4M in space, and that is something they could ultimately use in signing all 11 draft picks later this month, provided they hang on to all of those selections.

The current betting line has Howie Roseman attaching Ertz to a pick during the 2021 draft later this month, perhaps to move up in the middle rounds of the process to get a player the organization has targeted.

By doing that the Eagles could claim they got value for the second-leading receiver in franchise history and Ertz would have his new destination.

Johnson, meanwhile, is still holding out hope that fences can be mended, at least for the final season Ertz is under contract with the Eagles.

"I've talked with Zach multiple times throughout the offseason," he said. "We talk ball a little bit. ... If he's back, there will be nobody more happy than me as far as having a teammate back and having a great friend."

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 EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.