Eagles Stay or Go 2021: Tight ends

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Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro
·6 min read
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Eagles Stay or Go 2021: Saying goodbye to a great originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro bring back Stay or Go in 2021, trying to figure out the futures of every Eagles player on the roster.

Today, we’ll look at tight ends:

Hakeem Butler

Roob: I still literally cannot believe Doug Pederson’s play call down 14-10 against the Giants at the Linc on a 4th-and-goal from the Giants’ 3-yard-line was a Carson Wentz fade to practice squad call-up Hakeem Butler, who had never played an offensive play in his NFL career. The ball not surprisingly fell incomplete, and although the Eagles came back to win that remains the only offensive snap of Butler’s NFL career. He was released a few days later. Anyway, that says more about Pederson than Butler. But I can’t imagine the former Iowa State star, who was one of the nation's leading receivers in 2018, will be here next year.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I didn’t hate the idea of trying to convert Butler into a tight end but trying to do it in the middle of the season and then calling up a fade to him in a crucial situation for his first NFL snap was a little overly ambitious. I’m intrigued by Butler and his new TE coach, Jason Michael, helped convert Mo Alie-Cox from a basketball player into a tight end. But practice squad for now.

Verdict: Goes

Jason Croom

Roob: Croom caught a touchdown against the Ravens on his third snap in an Eagles uniform. His only catch of the season. The Eagles went through a lot of tight ends this year. Most of them you'll never hear from again. Croom did catch 22 passes a few years ago with the Bills, so there’s that. But this is a guy who didn’t get on the field the last eight games of the season, was never technically on the 53-man roster and even got waived from the practice squad late in the season. Hard to imagine he has any sort of future here.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Croom played in four games for the Eagles in 2020 and even caught a touchdown against the Ravens. He was once a contributor with the Bills but I doubt he’ll be able to stick with the Eagles.

Verdict: Goes

Zach Ertz

Roob: I’m a big Zach Ertz fan and have always been a big Zach Ertz fan. He’s a class act, an all-time great Eagle, a Super Bowl hero and a locker room leader. He loves playing in Philadelphia, he works tirelessly in the community and I hope he revives his career in 2021 after a nightmarish 2020. But it won’t be here. Ertz’s age, contract and decreased production this past year make him a poor fit on a team that has no choice but to go cheap and young this season. It’s a shame he never got the 28 catches he needed to catch Harold Carmichael for the franchise record for receptions. But that’s life in the NFL.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: It’s time. It seems pretty clear that the Eagles are going to either trade or release Ertz and save $5 million in cap space. He’s over 30, is coming off a down season and has a base salary of over $8 million this season. Those same reasons for getting rid of Ertz also hurt his trade value. But the Eagles are going to move on from all all-time great this offseason. It’s the right decision but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Verdict: Goes

Dallas Goedert

Roob: The only tight end that’s a lock to return, Goedert missed five games but his 48 yards per game was 5th-highest of all NFL tight ends this past season, and he’s 9th over the last two years playing mostly as the second tight end. Goedert is not Ertz. He’s not as good a receiver, but he’s faster and a better blocker. He’s really talented, but the Eagles need him to get to the next level in 2021 and catch 60 to 70 balls in Ertz’s absence. Don’t look now, but Goedert’s contract is up after 2021, so we may be going through all of this again.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: If I’m the Eagles, I’m trying desperately to extend Goedert this offseason. He is under contract for the 2021 season but will become an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season. Goedert might not want to sign an extension; he might want to be on himself having a big season, which is a real possibility. Ertz bet on himself and lost big. Either way, Goedert will be TE1 in 2021.

Verdict: Stays

Josh Perkins

Roob: Perk spent the year on Injured Reserve after playing a handful of snaps in 14 games for the Eagles over the two previous years. I guess he could wind up back on the 53 at some point if the Eagles get decimated by injuries again - which wouldn’t surprise anybody - but he’s going to be 28 this summer, he’s not a blocker and he has 17 career catches. Hard to imagine him being a factor moving forward.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Perkins missed all of last season with another injury. When healthy, Perkins doesn’t offer much as a blocker but is a decent pass-catcher as a converted receiver. He’s a nice guy but the Eagles ought to move on.

Verdict: Goes

Richard Rodgers

Roob: RichRod did a nice job filling in when Ertz was hurt, and during one five-week midseason stretch he caught 15 passes for 246 yards with two TDs. Only three TEs in the entire league had more receiving yards than Rodgers during that span. He’s not going to give you much on the line of scrimmage, but I like Rodgers as a receiving tight end. The dude has soft hands and can run. He played 361 fewer snaps than Ertz this year but had more yards. That gets your attention. Rodgers is an unrestricted free agent, but I’d bring him back in a second.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: With injuries to Ertz and Goedert in 2020, Rodgers ended up having a nice season with 24 catches, 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a second option, the Eagles could certainly do a lot worse; Rodgers is pretty good. But he’s also 29 and doesn’t have the familiarity with the new coaches like he did the last staff. I was on the fence here, but I think if the new staff wants a cheap veteran, they’ll find their own guy.

Verdict: Goes

Caleb Wilson

Roob: Along with Butler and Croom, Wilson is one of three TEs on the roster who played 13 or fewer snaps this year. Wilson was one of the leading TEs in Division 1 with 965 receiving yards playing for Chip Kelly at UCLA in 2018. He was fifth in the Pac-12 in receiving, 94 yards behind J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Can he play on this level? I have no idea. I’d bring him into camp for a look-see, but he remains a long shot.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The son of former DL coach Chris Wilson played in five games but mostly as a special teamer. He might stick around on the practice squad but I don’t see him on the 53-man roster.

Verdict: Goes

Stay or Go: Wide receivers

Stay or Go: Cornerbacks

Stay or Go: Running backs

Stay or Go: Linebackers

Stay or Go: Defensive tackles

Stay or Go: Interior OL

Stay or Go: Specialists

Stay or Go: Offensive tackles

Stay or Go: Defensive ends

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