Zach Ertz future: Why Eagles may be forced to cut Pro Bowl TE

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Will the Eagles be forced to cut Ertz? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Now that the June 1 deadline has come and gone, the Eagles will most likely trade Zach Ertz.

Unless they can’t.

Roster moves become much easier on June 1, when teams can spread out cap hits on players they trade or cut over two years instead of one year. Dave Zangaro explains it all here.

For the Eagles, that means it’s quite possible a resolution is approaching with Ertz, the disgruntled three-time Pro Bowl tight end.

And as badly as they would love to get a draft pick (or player) in exchange for Ertz, with each day that passes it becomes more and more likely that they’ll have to cut him and get nothing in return.

Ertz’s relationship with the Eagles soured last summer when contract talks toward a long-term deal broke down, and the Eagles have tried unsuccessfully to trade him since the start of the new league year in March.

As productive as Ertz has been — his 561 catches are 12th most in NFL history by a tight end — his value plummeted after he caught just 36 passes for 335 yards this past season and missed five games with an ankle injury.

Ertz is 30 now and teams aren’t in a hurry to give up draft assets for a 30-year-old tight end with an $8.5 million price tag coming off a disappointing and injury-marred season, no matter how accomplished he’s been.

It made sense for the Eagles to wait to make any kind of move with Ertz because throughout the spring, team needs change. If a team didn’t get the tight end it wanted in free agency or in the draft, maybe it would be willing to part with a third-round pick for Ertz. 

But free agency is over, the draft is over, and still nobody has met the Eagles’ asking price.

Now we’re at a point where nothing changes for two months. June and July are dead months, and team needs won’t change until training camp.

The Eagles could hold onto Ertz and wait until training camp and maybe a tight end somewhere gets hurt and that team becomes desperate for Ertz. But the Eagles don't want this to linger deep into the summer and have a new head coach have to deal with the distraction of Ertz holding out of camp. That also would be unfair to Ertz, and they generally try to accommodate all-time Eagles in these types of situations.

The Eagles want to resolve this as soon as possible and let everybody move on, but if they haven’t gotten a reasonable offer yet, what are the chances they ever get one?

It’s still possible. The Bills — the most logical landing spot for Ertz — cleared about $8 million in cap space Tuesday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN. That could set them up for a run at Ertz.

But do the Bills — or any team — covet Ertz so much that they would give up a draft pick and take on his $8.5 million base salary when they could just wait, knowing that if the Eagles don't find a suitor, at some point they'll have to give up and just release him?

It really comes down to how many teams legitimately want Ertz. You can make a case for Ertz being a sensible fit for a few other teams — the Panthers, Cards or Colts also come to mind — but the fact that it’s been almost three months without a nibble tells you the demand isn’t super high.

If you’re the Bills and you like your chances of signing Ertz if he’s released, why would you trade for him?

If he’s cut, that $8.5 million base salary in 2021 disappears and Ertz becomes a free agent. That means the Bills — or any team — can sign him for far less money and won’t have to part with a draft pick.

Unless a team is desperate for Ertz, why not wait and force the Eagles’ hand? 

And if a team were desperate, it would have presumably made a deal with the Eagles already.

You don’t see very many players in their 30s traded these days, no matter how accomplished they are. Teams value draft picks and youth more than ever.

As far as the Eagles go, the cap implications are the same whether they trade Ertz or release him. Either way, he’d count $4.2 million in dead money in 2021 and $3.6 million in 2022 and clear $8.5 million in cap space this year.

So for them it’s all about the compensation.

But everyone else, it’s also about money. 

If Ertz hits the open market, it’s hard to imagine him getting more than $3 or $4 million per year. That's a huge savings for whatever team signs him.

So if the Eagles really have made up their minds to move on from Ertz, they just may have to settle for getting nothing in return.

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