Zach Ertz has every reason to be upset.
The Eagles are low-balling one of their all-time greats.
How do you measure Ertz’s value?
You start with George Kittle and Travis Kelce, who both signed contracts this summer that redefined the NFL tight end market.
The 49ers gave the 26-year-old Kittle a five-year deal worth $75 million with $40 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $15 million.
The Chiefs gave the 30-year-old Kelce a four-year deal worth $57.25 million with $28 million guaranteed and an average annual salary of $14.3 million.
Ertz might not be the blocker that Kittle is or the down-field threat that Kelce is, but he belongs in that conversation.
He’s a three-time Pro Bowler, he’s got more catches than any tight end in NFL history after seven seasons, he caught the critical 4th-down conversion and game-winning catch in a historic Super Bowl win and he’s only 29 years old.
So if Kelce and Kittle deserve contracts averaging between $14.3 and $15 million per year and guaranteed money from $28 million to $40 million, then Ertz certainly deserves, say, 90 percent of those deals.
Let’s take Kittle out of the equation. He may wind up being the best tight end ever.
Kelce and Ertz are about the same age with similar production, although Ertz has been playing at an elite level for longer.
So let’s come up with an offer that’s 90 percent of Kelce:
That gets you to a $12.9 million average per year and about $25.2 million guaranteed.
But according to league sources familiar with the negotiation, the Eagles’ best offer so far is nowhere near that.
Without knowing the exact details, we do know the Eagles’ position is significantly below those numbers.
No wonder Ertz was so emotional when he spoke to reporters on Thursday morning.
“I’ve said all along I want to be here for the long run,” Ertz said. “I don’t know for sure if that feeling is mutual.”
At worst, Ertz is the 3rd-best tight end in the NFL. And when the top two are getting taken care of, it’s only natural that No. 3 deserves the same thing.
For talks to completely break off, the Eagles must be so far below those $12.9 million and $25.2 million figures there’s no reason for the two sides to even be sitting at the same table.
Let’s say they’re at $11 million APY and $22 million guaranteed.
Consider this: The Browns in March signed Austin Hooper away from the Falcons with a 5-year deal averaging $10 ½ million with $23 million guaranteed.
In the BEST year of Hooper’s career, he caught 75 passes for 787.
In Ertz’s AVERAGE year since 2014, he’s had 82 catches for 879 yards and six TDs.
Hooper’s a good player, but his best year is worse than Ertz’s worst year since he became a full-time starter.
Simply put, Ertz has to be closer to Kelce than Hooper, and by all accounts right now the Eagles’ best ever is closer to Hooper than Kelce.
The Eagles are in a very difficult position.
From the top of the franchise to the bottom, they think the world of Ertz. But they are in a very difficult cap position for 2021, they’re in the midst of a youth movement and they have another top-10 tight end in Dallas Goedert.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last decade it’s that when it comes to contracts and the cap, Howie can do anything.
If they really want Ertz, they need to get back to the negotiating table and make him a fair and equitable offer.
Because a franchise that’s already let Reggie White and Brian Dawkins walk can’t make the same mistake again.