How a trade for Eagles’ Zach Ertz could work for Bills
The offseason is the perfect time to speculate how the Buffalo Bills can bolster their roster heading into next season. Buffalo, fresh off of their best campaign in 25 years, finished just short of the ultimate goal.
One position group that left something to be desired throughout the Bills’ breakthrough season was the tight end group. Dawson Knox led the way with only 24 receptions. On several accounts this year, Buffalo’s defense saw firsthand how important a good tight end is to cause mismatches in game plans.
One way that the Bills can improve is trading for an established tight end. In this case, the Eagles’ Zach Ertz should be on the Bills’ radar. Ertz’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors from Philadelphia as of late.
John Brown for Zach Ertz.
Who says no?
— Justin DiLoro (@jdiloro) March 3, 2021
How could a trade for Ertz work? Let’s take a look at a hypothetical scenario that could bring the veteran to western New York:
Bills struggles at tight end
Bills tight end Lee Smith. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Buffalo's tight end room is a little lean at this time. Knox is at the top of the depth chart. His athleticism is a definite plus, as his raw ability gives him an edge over some defensive backs. However, Knox has not been the most consistent performer during his two years in the NFL. In fairness, his move to the tight end was late, so he is still learning the intricacies of the position. Tyler Kroft provided some depth at the position, but the Bills dressed him for only 10 games. The former Bengal added 12 receptions for 119 yards and three touchdown receptions. Lee Smith played sparingly in 10 games. Reggie Gilliam added only two receptions to the ledge. Smith and Gilliam found their main contributions through their blocking prowess. In short, the tight end position could produce much more, giving quarterback Josh Allen a better option in the intermediate passing game.
Why should Zach Ertz be on the radar?
Eagles' Zach Ertz (Gannett photo)
Ertz went through an injury-filled season in 2020, registering 36 receptions for 335 receiving yards and one touchdown in 11 games. All of these figures were career lows for the three-time Pro-Bowler. Even so, he was still targeted 72 times. Philadelphia went through a season of flux at quarterback, as the Eagles offense was a model of inconsistency. Ertz was also a 1B option on the field when paired with tight end Dallas Goedert. All of these factors contributed to the less-than-stellar numbers. When healthy, though, Ertz is still a force over the middle of the field. He had a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl selections (2017-2019). He was targeted over 100 times in five consecutive seasons (2015-2019). Ertz is 30 yards old. While he might not be in the conversation for elite tight ends, the eight-year veteran would still be an upgrade for the Bills. The hope is that Ertz can return to full health and produce closer to his glory days.
How could the Bills acquire Ertz?
Eagles' Zach Ertz (86) (Gannett photo)
Ertz could be had for a Day 3draft pick. However, the Bills are not in a position to take on Ertz's salary. With this in mind, the Bills would need to find a salary comparable to Ertz's in the deal. Ertz has a cap hit of $12.4 million in 2021. In this case, the Bills would have to move on from a player who has helped with the rebirth of the team's offense: John Brown. Brown's cap hit is $9.5M this year. Both players are entering the final guaranteed year of their respective contracts. Brown had a down season in 2020, as he battled injuries throughout. But, with the emergence of Gabriel Davis, this could be a good time for the Bills to make the move. In essence, the Buffalo would create a mismatch at the tight end position. With Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley as wideouts, the Bills would still be in a good position with their receiving corps. Buffalo would improve their tight end room with Ertz, and the Eagles would bring in a reliable receiver to help with the development of Jalen Hurts. Brown was integral to the improvement of Allen. Now, we'll admit that the deal could be a bit of a challenge. The Eagles are trying to shed salary, especially with the trade of Carson Wentz weighing heavily on their dead cap figure. There's another way that Ertz could come to Buffalo. The Eagles could release Ertz, in which Philadelphia would incur a dead cap hit of $7.78 million. Buffalo could sign Ertz to a restructured deal and that could help with the bottom line for the Bills. In this scenario, Buffalo would still move on from Brown. However, his contract is team-friendly toward the Bills, as his dead cap hit is only $1.6M. That space can then be allocated to Ertz. It might be a bit of a longshot, but for one year, Ertz could be an option to help boost the Bills offense. With how important the tight end position has become with producing massive mismatches against defenses, it's a move at the least which Buffalo should consider.