There aren’t many of them, and there haven’t been for years.
The last player to spend at least eight years with the Eagles and never spend a day with another team is Mike Quick. And he retired 25 years ago.
Zach Ertz wants to be that guy. A lifer.
“When I look over all of the athletes that I idolize — Kobe Bryant and Jason Witten are two of the athletes that I have looked up to since I was a young kid, and those two guys stayed in their cities throughout their entire careers,” Ertz said Monday.
“That’s the kind of legacy that I want to leave here in Philadelphia.”
Ertz took a major step toward establishing that legacy Monday, when he signed a five-year contract extension that starts in 2017 and runs through 2021.
The deal, according to multiple reports, includes $42½ million in new money and $20 million in guaranteed components.
Ertz still has a 2016 base salary of $1,138,527, so the deal is technically a six-year contract worth $43,638,527, with an average annual salary of $7,273,088.
But including only the five new years, it’s worth $8.5 million per year, which makes him the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid tight end based on average annual salary, behind Jimmy Graham ($10 million per year), Julius Thomas ($9.2 million per year) and Rob Gronkowski ($9 million per year).
That’s rarified territory for somebody who’s started only 14 NFL games.
But the Eagles believe Ertz is a budding superstar, and his second half last year certainly shows why. From Week 5 on, after he was fully recovered from preseason sports hernia surgery, he had the second-best numbers of all NFL tight ends. And he missed two games with a concussion.
In his last 11 games, Ertz caught 65 passes for 749 yards. Projected over a full season, that’s 95 catches for 1,090 yards.
In his last four games, he was 35-for-450 — the best four-game finish in NFL history by a tight end.
“When people think of great tight ends in Philly, I want to be the guy that they think of,” Ertz said. “I look at Dawkins, I look at Donovan, I look at Westbrook, and these guys have left lasting legacies in this city. Those are the guys that I want to be mentioned with.”
Ertz could have played out next year and hit the free agency market as a four-year veteran.
With a big year, he probably would have been able to draw an even bigger contract on the open market.
But it’s hard to turn down $20 million guaranteed.
“Ultimately, this is the best deal at the right time that made sense for me,” Ertz said.
“I’ve never played the game for money. I pride myself on being the best tight end that I can possibly be, and I think this deal signifies that.
“I am really happy with the deal. My agent did an unbelievable job. But at the same time, I just wanted to be in Philadelphia, and whatever price that took, that’s what I wanted to do. And I want to be here for a long time.
“I don’t play the game for financial success. Ultimately, I’m going to play the game to be the best player that I can be. The money — I never looked at it as something that I needed to get done this offseason. I’m very frugal off the field and I don’t really spend, so the money has never been something that I’ve paid attention to.
“I don’t really care about the money, honestly. All I care about is winning football games, and this commitment that the Eagles have placed in me is something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Ertz has 169 receptions for 2,024 yards and nine touchdowns in three NFL seasons. He had career bests with 75 catches for 853 yards this past season.
He has the 13th-most catches and 17th-most yards among all NFL tight ends in history through three seasons.
“I’m never going to be satisfied with where I am as a player, whether it’s the receiving or blocking aspect of it,” Ertz said at a press conference Monday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.
“I’m going to continue to push myself to improve each and every one of those aspects. I’m really excited to work with coach (Doug) Pederson, a new mind and new voice, and I think that, hopefully, that’s going to take me a long way. But at the same time, I think I have to be more consistent as well. Some of that falls on me and I’m going to work every day to get it done.”
Asked if a contract that makes him one of the NFL’s five highest-paid tight ends means he’d like to be one of the NFL’s five best tight ends, Ertz quickly said no way.
“My goal definitely isn’t to be top five, it’s to be the best in the league,” he said. “That’s something that I’m going to take pride in [trying] to accomplish.
“I don’t play this game to be an average tight end. I play this game to be the best tight end I can possibly be and win as many football games as I possibly can. And I’m going to push myself to accomplish those goals over the next five years.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be satisfied. Jason Witten isn’t satisfied and he’s going to go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. I’m always going to work through the next 10 years, hopefully, of my career and I’m really excited for it.”