PHILADELPHIA – Zach Ertz knew Thursday night was going to be his final time putting on an Eagles uniform.
It became official Friday morning when the Eagles traded him to the Arizona Cardinals for rookie cornerback Tay Gowan and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, ending a run that began when the Eagles picked him the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford.
It was a career filled with many memorable moments – the 116 catches in 2018, an NFL record for a tight end, and a critical fourth-and-one catch in Super Bowl LII that led to the game-winning drive to beat the New England Patriots with a late touchdown that Ertz himself scored, among them.
“Zach Ertz is a lasting legacy on this team on and off the field in this city, some of the most iconic moments in the history of this franchise were from Zach,” said GM Howie Roseman.
“Just tremendous appreciation for him as a player, an Eagles Hall of Famer, on the verge of maybe the NFL Hall of Fame, and as a person (with) the amount of conversations you have with him and his love of the game and his love of the city. It’s a hard day.”
Roseman said trade conversations began Tuesday and Ertz was kept in the loop, even knowing that he was going to be dealt before going out and catching four catches for 29 yards, including a five-yard touchdown, in a 28-22 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
The stage was his, with teammate Dallas Goedert not playing after being placed on the Reserve/COVID list earlier in the week.
“I think just talking through with Zach and understanding here you are, and you get to experience this and embrace everything that comes with it, not many people get an opportunity to do that,” said Roseman. “I think we agreed that was special for him.
“I think someone asked me what happens if something happens to him during the game and I said that’s the chance we are willing to take, because it was special for him last night, it was special for him to come out on a nationally televised game, in front of our fans, as a captain, be introduced, and I get kind of chills just thinking about it.”
Ertz’s teammates didn’t know, however, but got an indication when they saw the tight end crying at his locker for about 30 minutes following the game.
“I felt bad because the guys didn’t really know but I couldn’t help it, but it was special,” he said. “Last January against Washington (in the season finale) there were no fans, it was weird and I’m glad I didn’t end it last January. It was special (Thursday) night.”
The trade was expected to happen sometime during the offseason, and it was a bumpy ride between Ertz and the organization along the way with him expecting to be dealt but then returning for the start of the season.
Those hard feelings have been to rest.
“This is home,” said Ertz. “Philadelphia is home. I love this place. I’ve said it all along and it was a great opportunity to be here and I loved it here. I did the best I could every day and I can leave knowing that this isn’t going to be the last you’ll see of me in this city.”
Ertz leaves the Eagles with 579 career catches for 6,267 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was 11 catches away from breaking the franchise record of 589 set by Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael during Carmichael’s 13 seasons with the Eagles, from 1971-1983.
Goedert will now get a chance to prove he can fulfill the number one TE role and earn a contract extension since he is in the final year of his rookie deal.
“It’s become pretty clear to us that going forward we weren’t going to be able to have both those guys,” said Roseman. “They’re both free agents at the end of the year. It gives us an opportunity for Dallas to step up and be that number one guy, to really have that opportunity for the first time in his career and play a lot. It gives him the opportunity also to put his stamp as a leader on this team as well as the guys behind him."
Roseman said the Eagles also want to see what younger tight ends Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson, and Noah Togiaia can do.
Jackson could be ready to come off Injured Reserve in early November, Stoll has earned playing time throughout the season, and Togiai was added to the practice squad earlier in the week after spending last year with the Colts and head coach Nick Sirianni, who was the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis then.
“He will always be a member of the Eagles family,” said owner Jeffrey Lurie in a statement about Ertz, “not only because of what he accomplished on the field, but also because of the wonderful person, dedicated leader, and exemplary role model that he was for nine seasons in Philadelphia.”
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.