Dallas Goedert is taking part in the Eagles’ organized team activities this week, and Zach Ertz is not. This is the first offseason Goedert has been without Ertz since Goedert arrived as a second-round pick from South Dakota State in 2018, and it’s a strange feeling.
Ertz, disgruntled ever since he didn’t get the contract bump he was looking for following the 2019 season, is awaiting a trade or release. Goedert, whose ascension factored into the team’s decision not to pay fellow tight end Ertz top-of-the-market money, is looking to nail down the sort of contract Ertz was seeking, as Goedert enters the final year of his rookie deal.
It’s the circle of NFL life, and it can get messy.
“I’ve talked to Zach a handful of times. His situation, like you said, it is tough. I don’t know a ton about his relationship, whatever has happened with the Eagles,” Goedert said Wednesday. “That’s really none of my business. … The conversations we have, we’re friends, you know? We’ve been here for a while, we’ve [gotten] to know each other.”
Goedert said he and Ertz have lunched a couple of times and texted a lot during the offseason of Ertz’s discontent. Ertz has not been returning messages from reporters.
When June 1 passed, the 2021 salary cap relief figure for trading or releasing Ertz increased from just under $5 million to about $8.5 million, but that hasn’t seemed to bring resolution any closer.
General manager Howie Roseman apparently has been offered nothing better than a third-day draft choice for Ertz, who is entering the final season of a contract that will pay him $8.5 million this year. So far, Roseman isn’t willing to part with Ertz for that price, even though there are needs he could address with extra cap room.
Earlier in the offseason, the sense was that Roseman’s respect for Ertz and his accomplishments here – the three Pro Bowls he’s made and the Super Bowl game-winning touchdown he scored – would keep the GM from just hanging onto Ertz for another year, if offers weren’t to his liking. But if more weeks pass with no action, and training camp looms, we might have to revisit that assumption.
Would Ertz contemplate playing for the Eagles again?
“You know, I don’t feel like that’s really my place, even to ask him that,” Goedert said. “I don’t think it’s my place to ask him what his plan is. … We’ll take him back here; the more good players we have here, the better. But if it’s not the right situation for him, that’s his decision, ultimately.”
The Ertz camp is fervently hoping to not have to face that scenario. Not many players would pass up $8.5 million on principle. But not many GMs with a new head coach and a roster in transition would want to start off the new era with an extremely unhappy, high-profile veteran leader in the mix.
An ankle fracture limited Goedert to 11 games last season, in which he caught 46 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. He said Wednesday he considers himself “up there at the top” of a talented group of NFL tight ends. Ertz, 30, helped Goedert, 26, get to that level.
“Zach’s been an incredible mentor to me. The way he attacked every day, how much he knew about the playbook, how much he knew about opposing defenses. We’d leave the huddle [when Goedert was a rookie] and he’d tell me what I was doing, who I was going to block, and we’re not even to the line of scrimmage yet,” Goedert said.
“So just the way he approached everything, the way he was able to dissect defenses, the way he was able to attack leverage – learning from him was one of the biggest blessings of my career. The Eagles believing in me to be the No. 1 tight end if he doesn’t come back, it obviously just shows that my hard work’s been paying off. What I do on the field, they can see it as well as I can.”
As contract talks develop between Roseman and Goedert’s agent, Chase Callahan, we’ll get a better idea of how the Eagles view Goedert. Some analysts think he can be a more dynamic tight end than Ertz, whose 525 career receptions rank second in franchise history among all receivers only to Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael (589).
“I think contract stuff is still in discussions, a little bit. I’m not too worried about that; I have to go out there and play really good football,” Goedert said. “I’m leaving my contract stuff to my agent.”
Goedert is scheduled to make $1,246,947 this year. The top five tight end contracts all pay more than $10 million a year. Ertz has the sixth-highest contract. Roseman might need to deal Ertz to pay Goedert what Goedert expects in a long-term pact.
Goedert noted that the current top four of San Francisco’s George Kittle ($15 million a year), Kansas City’s Travis Kelce ($14.312 million) and the Patriots Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith ($12.5 million apiece) have helped boost the tight end market.
“That’s just kind of what we gotta do as tight ends – know our value and hold the organizations to as much as we can get, and continue to raise that bar,” Goedert said.