Football's tight end position has changed considerably in the last decade. In 2020 we have a ton of game-changing pass catchers at the position.
Which means it's time for tight ends to start getting paid more, and soon.
One of the players leading the tight end revolution has been the Eagles' Zach Ertz, who is under contract through 2021 but will likely want an extension sooner. His next contract (in Philly, or elsewhere) will be influenced by contracts for 49ers tight end George Kittle and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
And now, we have some idea of what those deals could look like.
Kittle has been looking for a huge contract, given his clear value in the passing game, but according to a report this week, it looks like the number will be a bit lower than some estimations.
Per The Athletic:
I recently spoke with someone in the know who said he thought Kittle ultimately would land a contract worth $13 million a year. That's not the spectacular deal some were envisioning for the 49ers' indispensable man, but it would still set the pace for all tight ends.
It's not mind-blowing money, but it would mark the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history. Right now, 14 wide receivers have a higher average annual salary higher than $13 million.
Does that mean an Ertz extension will land around the same place? And can the Eagles afford that? Let's investigate.
Here's a quick look at their respective numbers from last season:
Kittle: 85 receptions, 1053 yards, 5 TD
Ertz: 88 receptions, 916 yards, 6 TD
Ertz, who turns 30 this season, has reached three straight Pro Bowls and has been the Eagles' most relaible target during the Carson Wentz era. He's not getting younger, but he's still an elite tight end.
Kittle, who turns 27 this season, has reached two straight Pro Bowls, was named First Team All-Pro in 2019, and was the best receiving threat on a 49ers team that reached the Super Bowl.
The numbers put Ertz right around Kittle's neighborhood, but being three years older - and a potentially reduced role in the Eagles' offense with better wide receivers - could make it hard to argue he deserves an equal deal.
I'd imagine, if the Eagles want to keep him around, he'll land a little lower than Kittle, but higher than Austin Hooper, who landed a four-year deal averaging $10.5 million earlier this year.
(Considering what Dallas Goedert has shown in his first two seasons, I wouldn't extend Ertz, but that's a conversation for another day.)
In any case, Ertz is still one of the most important members of the 2020 Eagles team, as NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro explained Thursday:
One main reason Ertz has been so important to the Eagles is because they haven't had consistent play at the receiver position. He's been the offense's best and most consistent weapon in the last several seasons. In fact, he's led the team in receiving for each of the last four years.
While the Eagles have added some new receivers this offseason, my best guess is that as long as Ertz stays healthy, he'll lead the team in receptions again in 2020.
And then we'll see what happens.
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