And the Eagles would include Zach Ertz.

The National Football League can be a pretty cold place, and it can get cold quickly, even for a player who has scored the only Super Bowl-winning touchdown in a team’s 87-year history, who has caught more passes than every player except one in that team’s 87-year history, who spent several minutes on a Zoom call last month fighting back tears over the prospect that he will no longer play for that team.

Here’s how cold: Zach Ertz has been reduced to a potential throw-in, according to multiple reports, most prominently from ESPN, in a potential Carson Wentz trade. A sweetener to entice a franchise to take Wentz and his unwieldy contract off the Eagles’ hands. A footnote in a bigger, broader story.

Here’s how quickly: As recently as 2019, Ertz caught 88 passes for the Eagles, the second-highest total in his eight years with them, and scored six touchdowns. Before last season, he hadn’t caught fewer than 74 in a season since 2014. The notion that he would someday be the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions seemed a fait accompli. The notion that he would someday be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while hardly guaranteed, seemed a reasonable and worthwhile discussion topic.

Then he played just 11 games in 2020 because of an ankle injury, and he caught just 36 passes and just one touchdown, and in November, he turned 30.

And the Eagles would include Zach Ertz.

There can be a tendency to speak or write about a football player whose career might soon be ending in the tone of a eulogy or an obituary. This isn’t necessarily such an occasion for Ertz. Whether the Eagles trade him or release him, the chances are good that he will play elsewhere. But when he lingered on the Lincoln Financial Field sideline after the Eagles’ season-ending loss to Washington and when he conducted that tearful Zoom call with the media, it suggested that he has reconciled himself intellectually, if not emotionally, to his departure from the Eagles and Philadelphia.

“My goal every year is to be one of the best, if not the best,” he said in the summer of 2019, during training camp. “I don’t know if you remember, but when I was drafted, I said I wanted to be the best to ever play, ever, and then the best tight end that Philadelphia has ever had. Just putting that statement out there, a lot of people say that, then don’t put in the work. My goal every offseason is to come in better than I was the previous year. ...

“In terms of the long-term stuff, that’s the goal: to play a long time. I want to play my entire career in Philly. That’s definitely a goal of mine, to stay in one place my entire career. That is the goal — to be there when all is said and done.”

His connection to the franchise and the city shouldn’t be surprising, from him to them or from them to him. He fulfilled every expectation that one could have had for him, as a second-round draft pick. The most conspicuous blemish on his resume, a missed block against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, became a point of self-reflection and inspiration for him, an opportunity to learn how to be less sensitive to criticism.

Not every athlete who passes through Philadelphia makes that adjustment. Without it, perhaps Ertz doesn’t have the same career here. Perhaps he doesn’t make arguably the two most important catches in Eagles history: for a first down on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII, for the go-ahead touchdown seven plays later.

“I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” he once said. “I feel like people are saying there are one or two guys who are better than me, and I just don’t necessarily agree. So I work every year to prove that I’m one of the best, if not the best tight end in the game. Whether I get disrespected on the outside view, it almost just adds fuel. But the thing I care about most is what Doug [Pederson] thinks about me, what my teammates think about me, how they view me, whether I’m making plays on third down for them, executing the role they have carved out for me. That’s all I care about at the end of the day, is being a great teammate for them.”

He and some of those teammates, guys to whom there will always be a sentimental attachment around here, have futures now that are uncertain. Ertz. Brandon Graham. Brandon Brooks. Jason Kelce. Rodney McLeod. They’re all at least 30. That’s ancient in pro football, and those endings, whenever they arrive, can be abrupt. It’s a shame, and it’s not what any of those guys probably wants, but it’s the way of things.

And the Eagles would include Zach Ertz.

He doesn’t deserve that. But this is the NFL, where getting older is unforgiven, and deserve has got nothing to do with it.