By ROB MAADDI
Zach Ertz has made it clear he wants to play his entire career in Philadelphia. If the Eagles want to make that happen, they should give him a new contract soon.
I spoke to several NFL agents for an AP story on tight ends being underpaid and everyone expects their salaries to rise. Justin Schulman, who represents Ravens Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, said: “This position is probably the next to explode.”
The franchise tag for tight ends is $10.6 million; it’s $17.9 million for wide receivers. Ertz, George Kittle and Travis Kelce are going to narrow that gap.
Drew Rosenhaus said he expects Kittle to “reset the bar” for the position.
Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, pointed out that tight ends have evolved from being a safety valve to featured receivers in the offense.
“They were rarely the primary target but now linebackers can’t keep up with the them, cornerbacks can’t tackle them, and safeties struggle with them as well,” Bechta said. “Nobody has figured out how to stop them. They are mismatch nightmares.”
Kittle has one year left on his rookie deal so his next contract should be the richest for a tight end in NFL history. Kittle is only 26 and led San Francisco in catches and yards receiving each of the past two seasons. He hardly takes a play off. He’s a beast as a blocker and a monster to tackle. It’s easy to argue Kittle could command an average annual salary between $16-18 million, especially when Amari Cooper got $100 million over five years.
Cooper wasn’t even on the field for the most important play of Dallas’ season on fourth down against the Eagles in December. He was subbed out for Tavon Austin. Kittle, Kelce and Ertz play almost every down. They’re go-to guys. There’s no subbing them out, especially on big plays with a division title at stake.
The Eagles have to realize Kittle is going to set a new market for tight ends. That’s why Philadelphia offered Ertz a contract extension during last season. I’m told the offer would’ve made Ertz the highest-paid player at his position but didn’t offer sufficient guarantees. It would be wise for the Eagles to redo Ertz’s deal before Kittle gets his. Otherwise, they risk being priced out of the market. Ertz has two years left on a five-year, $42.5 million deal that he’s already restructured multiple times.
He’ll be 31 when he’s set to test free agency in 2022, takes excellent care of his body and plays a position that’s seen guys stay productive past their mid-30s. Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez are recent examples.
Kelce is a year older than Ertz and is scheduled to hit the open market at the same time. If he gets a new deal first, that’ll drive up Ertz’s price.
The Eagles also have to pay Dallas Goedert, who has two years left on his rookie deal but can redo it after this season. Blake Jarwin was in the same position with Dallas after three seasons and just got a four-year, $24.25 million deal. Goedert will cost more.
Could the Eagles afford two premium tight ends? That’s unlikely if they continue to wait on Ertz. If they want him to keep him beyond the 2021 season, it makes financial sense to step up and get a deal done before Kittle and Kelce get paid.