The Buzz: What Eagles Do With Ertz, Goedert Contracts?
Welcome to the “The Buzz,” a creative new way for Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher to give thoughts on hot topics involving the Eagles or NFL using email as a discussion platform. “The Buzz” will be a series of emails back and forth between Mosher and Caplan on a specific topic.
This week’s “The Buzz” presents Caplan’s and Mosher’s viewpoints on contract extensions for Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.
From: Adam Caplan
To: Geoff Mosher
Geoff, as you’re well aware, we discussed what we’re hearing about Zach Ertz’s potential contract extension on our last Inside The Birds Podcast.
We have discussed this subject a few times going back to March and as we noted back then, a deal wasn’t likely to get done until 49ers TE George Kittle got his extension done.
While both players are at different points at their career, both are integral parts of their team’s success.
Ertz, now in his 8th season (I can’t believe he has been playing for that long), has two years left on his deal. Kittle, who enters his 4th season, is arguably the best player at his position in the NFL.
Ertz has been the model Eagle; will wind up being the best player at his position in team history, set an NFL record for receptions by a TE for a single season (2018-116), and is one of their leaders on offense. He has also agreed to contract restructures at least 3 times (2017, 2018, 2019) in his career to help the team create salary cap space.
From the Eagles standpoint, they have motivation to lower his salary cap numbers for those final two seasons ($12.485m-2020, $12.175m).
But Geoff, there are other issues here, extending Dallas Goedert’s contract before it expires after 2021 is one of them.
The other is this: how much money and cap space can you tie up the tight end position?
This is what you call a good problem for GM Howie Roseman to have. However, how long is it sustainable?
From: Geoff Mosher
To: Adam Caplan
Adam, I’m no cap guru, but the way I see it, Howie Roseman can’t give Ertz an extension or restructure AND lower his cap numbers unless Roseman wants to spread that new signing bonus money over 4 or 5 years (maybe more) and create “dummy seasons.”
Roseman has done this before, as we’ve discussed, and it’s a dangerous game that frequently leads to dead money vs. the cap.
But … maybe it’s not that complicated with Ertz. He will turn 30 midway through this coming season (assuming the season goes as normal). Does he have four or five upper-echelon years left?
Tony Gonzalez had his final 1,000-yard season at 32, his last year with the Chiefs. But he also made the Pro Bowl at 34, 35 and 36. He was actually an All Pro at 36, with 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Antonio Gates had 821 yards and 12 touchdowns at 34 years old. Jason Witten was still hauling in between 60-80 catches and making Pro Bowls deep into his 30s.
Ertz, much like Gonzalez, Gates and Witten, is more of a technician than an explosive athlete. He has above-average hands and a tremendous acumen to stack defenders without elite speed. If you recall, we did a live show in Mayfair about a year ago with Jason Avant, who described Ertz’s “Euro-step” style of route-running to free himself in space.
Because he’s not speed-reliant, it’s safe to assume Ertz will maintain his status as one of the league’s top tight ends for another 5 years unless injuries take their toll.
So, Adam, what do you think about this — add three more years to his current deal (two years left) and make it a new 5-year deal, and spread the new signing bonus over 5 years and have most of the guaranteed money in Years 1 and 2. That won’t lower his cap number for 2021 and 2022, but then Roseman can be more creative with Goedert’s extension.
What say you?
From: Adam Caplan
To: Geoff Mosher
There’s a lot to unpack here.
Yes, you’re correct in extending his deal that it would be pushed back even more in terms of “dummy” years.
To understand “dummy” years, listen to the latest ITB-TV with NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt. We discussed this subject.
He’s signed through 2021, but has two “dummy” years for 2022, 2023. Now, those two additional years have minimal proration as of now (under $4m), but if they extend him again, they’ll be adding more proration, and that gets to be an issue with older players.
The risks are two-fold: the player retires early or suffers a bad injury where he can’t help the team anymore. That’s the risk you take when you extend older players. However, Ertz isn’t exactly old (turns 30 on 11/10) and keeps himself in tremendous shape.
I’d say he has at least 3 years left in him based on what we know about him.
Here’s what I’d do with Ertz and Goedert (expanding our discussion off the latest ITB show):
First of all, I want to keep them together for as long as I can. Teams that I talked to over the last 2 seasons were intrigued with what the Eagles have in those two TEs. They knew it would be hard to cover both, particularly if DeSean Jackson stayed on the field. Just look at Week 1 last year vs. the Redskins. And even if Jackson is gone after this season, Jalen Reagor will take over as their deep threat.
The thought process that Roseman had was to not only give the Eagles Ertz’s potential replacement, but give them flexibility to their passing game, as we’ve discussed more than a few times on ITB over the last few years.
Roseman needs to see this situation through. They’re onto something. You mentioned the Gronkowski-Hernandez situation. Had Hernandez not gone off the rails, they would have formed the most formidable TE duo in NFL history.
I would wait to extend Goedert until after or during the 2021 season. If he continues to progress, but if they can’t reach a deal with him, then franchise or transition tag him in 2022.
From: Geoff Mosher
To: Adam Caplan
Agreed, Adam, they need to keep both, which should be one of Howie’s more-complicated objectives over the next two off-seasons, especially if Goedert’s numbers take another big step in 2020.
At some point, Goedert might just feel it’s better for him professionally and financially to play out his contract and strut into free agency looking to cash in the way Austin Hooper just did, getting more than $10 annually from the Browns.
But like you said, the Eagles are onto something with their 12 personnel (two tight end packages), which Pederson used more than any other NFL coach last year. We still don’t know what the Eagles’ receivers will be in 2021 and beyond.
(The prolific TE combo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert led Doug Pederson to lead the NFL in two-tight end formations.)
Sure, they’ve fortified the WR position for the future by drafting Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins, adding to young wideouts J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward, but until these receivers prove they belong on an NFL roster, the Eagles can’t make any long-term decisions about going back to a predominantly 11 personnel (three wide receivers) offense.
Plus, Roseman can afford to pay a little more than he typically would at tight end if the team can lean on a stable of productive young wide receivers who are all working under cost-effective rookie deals.
Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher are co-hosts of the Inside the Birds podcast and staff writers for InsideTheBirds.com.
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