Earlier this week, Howie Roseman met with Zach Ertz to inform him a trade was coming.
The Eagles general manager knew Ertz’s nine-year stretch with the team was in its final days and wanted to loop him in.
What followed, Roseman said, was a lengthy, emotional meeting Tuesday night with the tight end he drafted in the second round out of Stanford in 2013. The Eagles didn’t finalize the deal that will send Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals until Friday, but Roseman said the organization knew Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be Ertz’s last with the team.
“I gave Zach a heads up about this process on Tuesday,” Roseman said. “I spent a lot of time with Zach on Tuesday night, talking to him about his future and a lot of memories about the past, too. It was a hard night, Tuesday night, having those conversations, but they were honest. They were good.”
The context clues that Ertz knew he was playing his last game were apparent throughout a 28-22 home loss to the Bucs. He was the honorary team captain for the pregame coin toss for the first time all season, and he was emotional coming off the field after the game.
Less than 12 hours after Ertz left Lincoln Financial Field, the team announced he was traded to the Cardinals in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round pick and sixth-round rookie cornerback Tay Gowan, who has not been active for a game this season.
When asked about the risk of Ertz getting hurt and tanking the trade, Roseman said the organization was willing to take the chance in order to let Ertz play, knowing it would be his last game before the trade.
“I think someone asked me, ‘What happens if something happens to him during the game?’” Roseman said during a Friday news conference. “I said, ‘That’s a chance we’re 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 chills just thinking about it.
“I thought it was important that Zach was able to really go in last night with his eyes open and really enjoy each moment coming out there. He was a captain last night for that reason. So, he knew, although we didn’t call back Arizona until this morning, he knew this was going to happen.”
With Dallas Goedert on the COVID-19/reserve list and out for the game, Ertz played a season-high 88% of the offensive snaps against Tampa Bay. He finished with four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Ertz said he didn’t tell his teammates about the imminent trade, just his wife, U.S. women’s national team star Julie Ertz, and his agent.
“I was crying in my locker last night for 30 minutes, and I felt bad because the guys didn’t really know,” Ertz said. “It was special. ... I enjoyed my last game last night, knowing that I wasn’t going to be here. I didn’t really talk to anybody about it during the week. I talked to Julie about it, I talked to my agent about it, but I just wanted to focus on the task at hand.”
Ertz has been the subject of trade rumors for roughly a year after he wasn’t able to reach a contract extension with the Eagles going into the 2020 season. At points in the offseason, a deal felt imminent as Ertz skipped OTAs while waiting to hear his fate. Before the 2021 season opener, Ertz said he was putting the trade speculation behind him and was happy to still be a part of the organization. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
With the Eagles sitting at 2-4 with a tough road matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders looming, the Ertz trade could be viewed as a sign the team is willing to offload veteran players to contenders in exchange for extra draft picks.
Still, Roseman said he doesn’t expect the Eagles to be sellers as the Nov. 2 trade deadline approaches, even if they struggle over the next two weeks.
“I view us as still having an opportunity in the next 11 games to show what kind of team we are,” he said. “And I think this was more about the opportunity to really put the pieces of the puzzle together for this team at that position and kind of moving forward. It’s not to give up on the season in any way, shape or form. I’m certainly not thinking about anything going south.”
Roseman added that Ertz will eventually go into the Eagles Hall of Fame, pointing out the number of “iconic” catches and contributions for the Super Bowl team in 2017 he made.
Ertz will now have a chance to add another championship to his résumé, joining the 5-0 Cardinals.
“In terms of why we did this, it was about opportunity,” Roseman said. “Opportunity for the Eagles, opportunity for Zach as we move forward.”