Jason Michael accepted the Eagles’ tight ends coach job this offseason, which means that on paper, he’s Zach Ertz’s position coach.
In reality, he’s somewhere in between.
“Early when we all first got here, had an opportunity to call and speak with Zach and have continued to stay in touch,” Michael said on Tuesday. “Consistent communication throughout. That’s been good just in terms of the conversations we’ve had.”
Ertz and the Eagles are in a tricky and somewhat messy situation and it still seems likely the three-time Pro Bowler won’t be on the Eagles’ roster when the season opener comes around on Sept. 12. He might not even be on the roster when the Birds report for training camp on July 27.
Ertz, 30, did not attend the Eagles’ voluntary spring workouts this offseason and with the cancellation of the minicamp, the first mandatory practice dates won’t arrive until later this summer.
For now, Ertz is in limbo.
And you could understand if Michael found this to be a difficult situation as a new position coach in town. Although, he says it isn’t.
“For me, I just want to make sure that those lines of communication are open,” Michael said. “I respect Zach Ertz as a player. The same thing: If you’ve been in this thing long enough, you remember those guys coming out. When he came out of Stanford, evaluating, and just evaluating different tight ends over the years. I have great respect for him. He’s played winning football at a high level for a long time.
“In terms of difficult, no. I look forward to an opportunity to work with him, hopefully, as it goes forward. Just want to make sure that there’s communication there. In terms of that, that’s been positive.”
The Eagles haven’t been all that shy about the fact that they’ve been open to trading Ertz this offseason but the return hasn’t yet reached a level they feel comfortable with. The last time general manager Howie Roseman was asked about Ertz, he made sure to point out that Ertz still has a lot of good football left. In other words: “Hey, other teams, bring a better offer.”
Perhaps now that June 1 has passed, it’ll push the Eagles to make a move sooner. Since it’s after June 1, they would save $8.5 million in cap space if they trade or release Ertz, as opposed to just under $5 million in cap savings before that date.
Ertz made the Pro Bowl from 2017-19 but had a down year in 2020. That came after he and the Eagles couldn’t reach terms on a contract extension, which led Ertz to publicly question whether or not the Eagles really wanted him.
This situation still seems destined to end with Ertz leaving the Eagles, the team that drafted him back in 2013. But there could still be an outside chance he returns. It’s probably time for Dallas Goedert to assume the No. 1 tight end role in Philly, but there’s no question the Eagles are a better team with Zach Ertz than without him.
So it’s a good idea for Michael to keep those lines of communication open. It’s unlikely to change the situation, but it can’t hurt.
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