Zach Ertz came into this season saying he was underpaid and deserved a new contract. He may come out of it looking like the most overpaid tight end in the league and in search of a new team.
So far this season, Ertz has racked up 20 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown for the Eagles in five games. Those stats rank 4th, 20th and tied for 17th among tight ends in the NFL. Meanwhile, his cap hit of $12,481,500 is the highest of all his fellow tight ends in the NFL.
As big of an issue as his statistical production has been this season, the game film is perhaps even more unsettling. Ertz, still only 29-years-old, moves with the grace of someone trying to run routes wearing ice skates on a grass field this year. He equally fails to get separation against safeties who are smaller than him as he does against linebackers who are less athletic than him -- or at least used to be less athletic than him.
This is not an ideal situation for a man looking for one last blockbuster contract.
Ertz signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract back in 2017, which included an $8 million signing bonus and $21 million guaranteed. He rewarded the Eagles with three Pro Bowl seasons from 2017-2019 when he totaled 278 catches, 2,903 yards and 22 touchdown passes. You could easily make the argument he was underpaid during that stretch. Ertz did so this preseason, reportedly getting into a "heated argument" with Eagles GM Howie Roseman and saying he was "frustrated" with contract extension talks. Here's a few more points he made.
Flash forward to this season, when the Eagles need him now more than ever, and it's fair to wonder what's going on.
The Eagles were bereft of receiving talent coming into the season and have even less since DeSean Jackson and fellow tight end Dallas Goedert got injured. You can look at that as a bad thing (defenses can key on Ertz) or a good thing (Carson Wentz has no one else to throw to). And yet the stats say Ertz has regressed big time the last two weeks.
Maybe Ertz is injured -- it certainly looks like it when he runs routes sometimes. Maybe it's something else. But whatever's going on, it's not good for Ertz.
The Eagles have another talented tight end they can turn to if Ertz leaves this offseason in the aforementioned Goedert. Meanwhile, teams around the league considering signing Ertz have to be concerned with what they're seeing from him. Either situation is concerning for Ertz in his pursuit of a new contract.
There's still plenty of season for him to turn things around and prove he's a top-5 tight end who deserves to be paid accordingly. Ertz has the talent to do that. However, it hasn't been pretty so far, and if things don't change it could be a costly season for Ertz.