George Kittle didn’t just reset the tight end market on Thursday. He obliterated it.
And you can bet Zach Ertz is taking note.
The 49ers and Kittle just agreed to a groundbreaking contract for the All-Pro tight end that comes with an average of $15 million per season.
Ertz, 29, is still under contract through the 2021 season but is also in line for a contract extension of his own. And while you might not think he deserves as much money as Kittle or even Travis Kelce (who is also in line for an extension), Ertz might think so.
Check out what Ertz said about the comparisons to Kittle and Kelce last week:
I do consider myself in that upper echelon of guys, in that same tier with all those guys,” Ertz said last Friday. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think a lot of guys in this building feel the same way about me. I’m never in the business of comparing people. I think all three of us are at the top of our games, and I think we’re all perfect in the offense that we play in, honestly. I think we all have unique skill sets. We’re all very different, with some similarities. But overall I don’t think my game is any less than any of their games.
We’ll eventually find out if the front office agrees with him. Because the Eagles are going to face a really critical decision soon regarding Ertz. And the existence of Dallas Goedert only adds more layers to this situation.
Ertz, 29, signed an extension in 2016 that gave him an average per year of $8.5 million. While he might not get to the $15 APY that Kittle just got, he’s going to aim to be in that area. That’s the natural progression of contracts in the NFL. My guess is he gets in the $11-13 million per season range, which is still a really big investment on a player who will likely be over 30 when that deal happens.
For a long time, the market for tight ends has been really stagnant. The Jimmy Graham $10 million APY had been the benchmark until Austin Hooper passed that with a $10.5 APY this offseason. Now, Kittle has demolished that.
It’s also worth noting that NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported earlier this offseason that Ertz actually turned down a deal during the 2019 season that was more lucrative than the deal Hooper signed. That should give you an idea of Ertz’s mindset. (But it was the right decision; let Kittle or Kelce reset the market.)
There’s no questioning what Ertz has meant to the Eagles offense. He’s been their leading receiver in each of the last four seasons and this is the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl! He’s in the middle of an absolutely tremendous career.
Ertz last week emphasized his desire to play for the Eagles for his entire career. But it’s never that simple.
Remember, Goedert is still just 25, he has two more years left on his rookie contract and is already a top 10 tight end in the NFL. And while Ertz has put up incredible — like Hall of Fame — receiving numbers, Goedert is definitely a more well-rounded player. Heck, ProFootballFocus actually ranked Goedert ahead of Ertz for the 2020 season.
The one thing that seems clear is that it’s going to be really hard to keep both talented tight ends long-term.
If the Eagles want to keep Ertz, they’re going to have to give him a huge contract. This Kittle deal just created some framework and a potential obstacle.
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