Realistic Trade Destinations for Eagles TE Zach Ertz Before Training Camp
At some point in the next few weeks, Zach Ertz's tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles could come to an end.
Multiple teams have shown interest in Ertz, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported in March. As expected, he hasn't participated in the Eagles' offseason program, and according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer in May, the veteran tight end will stay away from the team until he's traded or released.
Let's go through five of the most realistic destinations for Ertz based on reports and roster fits. You'll notice the Buffalo Bills aren't listed among the suitors.
While Hollister and Dawson Knox shouldn't take the Bills out of contention for Ertz, five other teams have much bigger needs at tight end or make better fits for him.
On June 1, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported "at least three tight end-needy teams" had checked in on Ertz. The Arizona Cardinals don't have a standout playmaker at the position and didn't address this issue during the draft.
At tight end, Maxx Williams lists atop the depth chart. He recorded his best receiving numbers in 2005 as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens (32 receptions for 268 yards and a touchdown).
The Cardinals have $13.5 million in cap space. Though they may have to give edge-rusher Chandler Jones a pay raise, Arizona could shed $2.9 million if the front office finds a trade partner for inside linebacker Jordan Hicks, whom the team has made available, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
As a three-time Pro Bowler with five 800-plus-yard seasons, Ertz would leapfrog Williams for the starting spot.
Quarterback Kyler Murray has a deep wide receiver corps that features DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and rookie second-rounder Rondale Moore.
General manager Steve Keim can push this pass-catching group over the top with a sure-handed tight end who can serve as a reliable red-zone target in case Green (6'4", 207 lbs) continues to show a decline. Before ankle and foot injuries last year, Ertz scored 22 touchdowns from the 2017 to 2019 terms.
This offseason, the Carolina Panthers made notable moves to upgrade their tight end group. Ian Thomas posted 20 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown as the team's leader in snaps (672) at the position last year. The front office signed Dan Arnold and selected Tommy Tremble in the third round of the draft.
Last year, Arnold made strides, hauling in 31 receptions for 438 yards and four touchdowns, but that's his most productive campaign by far. In 31 contests, the fifth-year veteran has just seven career starts.
As a pass-catcher, Tremble had two modest years at Notre Dame, catching 35 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
If the Panthers want to provide the best supporting cast for quarterback Sam Darnold, who's going into a crucial fourth term in a new system, they shouldn't look away from an opportunity to upgrade his pass-catching group.
Carolina should do what's best for Darnold's development. Ertz would start over the two veterans who have mostly served in backup roles and a rookie without a strong track record as a playmaker in an aerial attack.
If not for the Eagles' reported asking price of a third- or fourth-round pick (h/t NFL Network's Tom Pelissero), the Indianapolis Colts might've acquired Ertz along with quarterback Carson Wentz.
With Wentz as the Eagles' primary starter, Ertz led Philadelphia in catches and receiving yards in four consecutive campaigns (2016-19) and receiving touchdowns in three (2016, 2018-19). Clearly, they have established a strong rapport.
Colts head coach Frank Reich was the Eagles' offensive coordinator for two seasons in 2016 and 2017. He knows how to use Wentz and Ertz as a viable tandem in the aerial attack.
Through three years with the Colts, Reich has utilized multiple pass-catching tight ends in his system, including Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox and Trey Burton.
Doyle and Alie-Cox remain on the roster. Indianapolis selected Kylen Granson in the fourth round of this year's draft.
As a collegian, Granson played two seasons at Rice and two at SMU, recording 129 receptions for 1,879 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has great upside in an offense that allows tight ends to shine in the passing game, but the rookie doesn't have a connection with Wentz yet.
Ertz has already earned Wentz's trust, and he's produced bigger numbers than Doyle in a lead role. Alie-Cox has mostly held a reserve position.
Because of Ertz's familiarity with the Colts' quarterback and scheme, Indianapolis seems like the best fit for him.
More than eight years after he played his last NFL game, Tim Tebow could claim a roster spot at tight end with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has a connection with head coach Urban Meyer. They won two national titles on the collegiate level at Florida.
Even if Tebow makes the final roster, he may not play a traditional tight end role. According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, the Jaguars see him as a Taysom Hill-type player.
As a versatile offensive playmaker, Tebow could take handoffs, throw a few passes and get some targets out wide, which would leave a spot open for a prototypical tight end.
Among the notable veterans on the roster, Chris Manhertz and James O'Shaughnessy have yet to catch 30 passes in a season. Before the 2020 term, they held backup positions. In the fifth round of this year's draft, Jacksonville selected Luke Farrell, who caught 20 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown in his most productive collegiate campaign at Ohio State in 2018.
With Jacksonville, Ertz wouldn't have much competition for the top spot at tight end, which is arguably the weakest position on the roster. The Jaguars can do rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence a big favor and add a reliable big target to the passing game.
The Tennessee Titans list as a realistic destination because of a recent comment by general manager Jon Robinson.
After the Titans acquired wide receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons, Robinson said the team is assessing the tight end position.
Though the Titans can take a look at less costly options such as free agents Trey Burton, Tyler Eifert and Jesse James, Ertz tops the group with his accolades and production.
Tennessee allowed tight end Jonnu Smith to test the free-agent market, and he signed with the New England Patriots. Ertz and Anthony Firkser can become a solid duo in two-tight end sets for offensive coordinator Todd Downing, who coached the position over the last two years.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill could spread the ball around a solid pass-catching group that would include Ertz, Jones and A.J. Brown, and that could lighten the load for running back Derrick Henry, who leads the league in rushing attempts (896) since 2018.
The Titans have $7.1 million in cap space, but they can restructure left tackle Taylor Lewan's deal to free up another $7 million to make room for Ertz's $8.5 million contract.
Salary-cap and contract details courtesy of Over the Cap.