Zach Ertz is no longer with the Philadelphia Eagles, as the franchise icon who left his mark on a passionate city has been traded. The Eagles dealt Ertz, one of the greatest tight ends in team history, to the Arizona Cardinals for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick.
Ertz caught 579 passes for 6,267 yards and 38 touchdowns in his nine seasons with the Eagles. He'll finish his Eagles tenure just 10 catches behind Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael (589) as the franchise's all-time reception leader and is fifth on the franchise's all-time list in receiving yards (second among tight ends). Ertz also has the NFL record for receptions in a season by a tight end (116) and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII to give the Eagles their first Super Bowl title.
Both the Eagles and Cardinals came out winners in this deal, with the franchises headed in different directions as the 2021 season plays on. Here's how we graded the move for each:
The Cardinals needed a pass-catching tight end if they were serious about contending for the NFC West -- and the Super Bowl. With Maxx Williams being lost for the season (knee), Arizona had just Demetrius Harris and Darrell Daniels as tight ends on their roster. Neither has a catch yet this season, and it was asking too much for either to be a consistent contributor in the offense.
Arizona needed to acquire Ertz, who was splitting snaps with Dallas Goedert in Philadelphia. With Goedert out due to COVID-19 protocols, Ertz had an opportunity to showcase how valuable he can be to an offense as a featured tight end on Thursday, with a touchdown reception and getting open on numerous occasions in Philadelphia's loss to Tampa Bay. Ertz is still one of the best route running tight ends in the game and as sure handed at the position as they come, even at 30 years old.
Ertz won't be asked to be the savior in Arizona, just an added weapon in an offense that already has DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Rondale Moore as pass catchers. The Cardinals have run '10' personnel -- one RB, four WRs, no TE -- more than anyone, but they figure to get Ertz on the field after making this trade, even in four wide receiver sets if they line him up as a receiver.
Ertz can be the difference between the Cardinals being a "one-and-done" playoff team or going deep in the postseason. He's another excellent veteran to add to that locker room -- and a player they should sign past this season.
The Eagles didn't get the offers for Ertz they wanted this summer, so they decided to mend fences with the franchise legend in what ended up being an emotional goodbye and classy exit from Philadelphia. At the end of the day, Philadelphia was able to receive a Day 3 draft pick (a 2022 fifth-rounder) and a player in rookie cornerback Tay Gowan -- a much bigger haul than anything they were offered prior to the start of the year.
Getting a fifth-round pick is a hit or miss, but Gowan seems to fit in the cornerback plans for Philadelphia. Gowan appeared to be a Day 3 steal in the sixth round this year, as his 26.2 passer rating in single coverage since 2019 was the second lowest in college football. Gowan makes plays on the ball and fits the coverage scheme Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon likes to run.
So where does Gowan fit in this defense? Darius Slay and Steve Nelson are the starters on the outside and Avonte Maddox mans the slot, but using added cornerback depth to develop a young player at that position benefits the Eagles down the road. Gowan was on the 53-man roster, but was a game day inactive for all five games Arizona played. With Zech McPhearson and Josiah Scott also on the roster, expect Gowan to continue being a project for the Eagles as a game day inactive going forward. The Eagles will continue to develop Gowan in the hopes he can contribute in 2022, especially with Nelson and Maddox hitting free agency after the season.
Dallas Goedert may never replicate the production of Ertz, but he's the No. 1 tight end in Philadelphia with a contract extension incoming. Goedert is a top-10 tight end in the game as a pass catcher and blocker, and his numbers will increase now that he's the primary option and not splitting the snaps with Ertz. This will benefit Jalen Hurts and the offense as a whole, as the Eagles would prefer to run "11" personnel, which they run 69% of the time anyway.
The Eagles weren't going to re-sign Ertz after the year and they want to get younger as they still transition from their Super Bowl championship roster. General manager Howie Roseman abided by Ertz and sent the franchise icon to where he wanted to go while getting the best offer possible. Philadelphia won't be winning the NFC East anyway and doesn't have the look of a playoff team.
This year is about development, from the front office to the head coach to the players. Let's see how much damage Goedert can do as a top pass-catching option with other young talents such as DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins.