PHILADELPHIA - Last year at this time the 2020 season was shaping up as a coronation for Zach Ertz when it came to the Eagles' All-time receptions record.
Ertz came into the campaign just 64 short of Hall of Fame receiver Harold Carmichael, certainly not a walk in the park for your average tight end but a run-of-the-mill feat for the Stanford product who hadn't caught less than 74 passes in five consecutive seasons, topping out an NFL record 116 for TEs in the 2018 season.
Turns out Carmichael will likely hold the Philadelphia record for many more years as Ertz had a career-worst season in the midst of contract angst and injury, amassing career-low numbers of 36 receptions for 335 yards and a TD during a dismal 4-11-1 season.
Carmichael now leads 589 to 561 with the presumption that the 30-year-old Ertz has played his last down with the Eagles.
While most of the talk about marquee players leaving Philadelphia has focused on Carson Wentz, if anything, the quarterback's long-time security blanket in the passing game and the best receiving TE in franchise history is perhaps even more likely to have a new home come September.
Ertz is a difficult situation for Eagles GM Howie Roseman, who also has a younger, ascending tight end in Dallas Goedert who will require an extension soon.
Ertz, meanwhile, is still under contract as a high-priced franchise great, who underperformed even while healthy in 2020, missed five games with an ankle injury, and is now north of 30 for an organization entering into a transition phase according to the owner himself.
The Eagles have a new coaching staff and need to get younger and cheaper in the hopes of everyone growing together.
All high-priced veterans are on alert with players like Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson already restructuring their contracts in advance of hitting the open market once released. DeSean Jackson is almost sure to follow. Even high-priced stalwarts coming off injury like Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have to be somewhat wary and Jason Kelce is taking everything year to year at this point.
The bookkeeping, for now, is that Ertz remains under contract with a base salary of $8.25 million in 2021, and a salary-cap figure just south of $12.5M. A trade or release would offer at least a bit of relief in the form of $7.77M in dead money counting against their cap vs. a savings of $4.702M, not great especially when you add in the potential $33.8M in dead money for Wentz but certainly a feasible scenario.
Ed Kracz of SI.com Eagle Maven reported Sunday that Indianapolis and Seattle have both talked about a deal for Ertz and if you rewind to the trade deadline during the season, Kracz also reported that Green Bay and Baltimore made offers before a move to injured reserve extinguished those potential deals.
Some have even speculated that Ertz would be a sweetener in the deal to send Wentz to the Colts and give Philadelphia a better return although two high-priced salaries instead of one may actually have the opposite effect.
Even though Frank Reich, Press Taylor, and Mike Groh all have immense respect for Ertz and are now coaching in Indianapolis, which has plenty of salary-cap room to take on both contracts it's the Eagles who would have to sweeten things to offload the big numbers.
Remember just because you have money doesn't mean you are compelled to spend it.
Colts GM Chris Ballard might OK the outlay but he'll be savvy about it what it takes to acquire the contracts.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at email@example.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.