PHILADELPHIA – Zach Ertz came off the field following Thursday night’s 28-22 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers close to tears.
He and teammate Javon Hargrave walked down the tunnel leading from the field to the locker room unable to control his emotions. Before entering the locker room, he held his hand to the head of Eagles security Dom DiSandro.
The two shared a few words then DiSandro gave the tight end a couple of pats on the chest then another on the back of his shoulder pads.
It looked like a goodbye.
We’ve seen this before with Ertz and the Eagles, though.
Remember last year, after the Eagles lost their season finale to finish with a 4-12 record?
He, Carson Wentz, and Jason Kelce gathered at midfield on the sideline, presumably enjoying their final weeks as teammates.
Wentz was traded.
Then there was the tearful good-bye Ertz had shortly after the season ended. He thought he would follow Wentz out the door.
Kelce even lost a bet with Ertz, when he bet his friend that he would be traded before the season started.
Ertz was supposed to be but never was.
This may be it, though.
This may be the time.
Dallas Goedert didn’t play on Thursday due to being on the Reserve/COVID list, but it's apparent his involvement in the offense has been stunted with Ertz around.
Ertz’s presence has also prevented this team from finding its true identity. They want to be 11-personnel based with three receivers on the field, but the presence of two high-quality tight ends has made it difficult to do that, with too much bouncing back and forth in personnel groupings.
This offense needs to focus on what it wants to be and two tight ends who both want the ball just don’t fit.
So, one must go, and that one will be Ertz, and the guess here is it happens soon, perhaps before the Eagles head to Las Vegas to play the Raiders on Oct. 24.
If it happens, Ertz will depart just 11 catches short of breaking Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael's all-time receptions mark of 589. Ertz made four catches for 29 yards against the Buccaneers including a touchdown, which was his 38th with the Eagles.
These next few days will be all about figuring out why this offense isn’t working.
Whittling the tight end room to just Goedert and, to a lesser extent, Jack Stoll and maybe Noah Togiai will put the ball back more in Goedert’s hands.
Perhaps that too could help make Goedert want to do a contract extension before the season ends.
With Ertz in the mix, Goedert may not have wanted to make that happen, preferring to go to a team that would commit to making him a bigger part of the offense than what the Eagles have done in the five games he has already played.
As for where and for what, GM Howie Roseman was always hopeful of getting at least a fourth-round pick in return.
There are some teams in a position to make that happen, including ones who have gotten off to good starts, including the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, as well as others. And there are some, such as the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, trying to remain in the hunt in very competitive divisions.
The destination is unclear, but the journey appears set to begin.
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 or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.