Not much went as planned for the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2015 NFL season. Head coach Chip Kelly completely transformed the roster and the team went from two straight 10-6 finishes to not even having a shot at an NFC East title that wound up being won by a 9-7 team. It was an ugly run, but the silver lining could have been the emergence of Zach Ertz.
Ertz came on strong to end the year, hauling in 13 receptions in week 16 and an impressive 40 catches over his final three games. Ertz’s hot run helped him notch career highs in receptions (75) and receiving yards (853). It also helped get him paid.
Per reports, the Eagles responded to Ertz’s breakout season by making sure he didn’t even consider moving on once he hit free agency, by signing him to a brand new five-year, $42.5 million extension. The move locks up one of Philly’s top weapons in the passing game just as he has begun to find his comfort zone in the league.
Zach Ertz’s 5-year, $42.5M contract extension with $20M in guarantees from the Eagles makes him the NFL’s 4th highest paid TE.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) January 25, 2016
It’s a great move for the now and for the future, as the Eagles would love to keep some sort of continuity as new head coach Doug Pederson comes in and tries to pick up where Kelly left off. Having a versatile and athletic tight end like Ertz that can create mismatches could be a big piece of that puzzle. Pederson was able to do big things with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce the past two years, so there is a good amount of optimism that he can help Ertz hit on even bigger numbers. The Eagles still are undecided on what to do at quarterback and may also end up bringing in new blood at wide receiver, but this move screams one thing loudly: gone are the days where Brent Celek steals time from Ertz.
Ertz is clearly on the rise in all regards and with this signing the Eagles are completing the transition from using Ertz sparingly to using him as a key part of the offense. The one spot they’ll have to work on maximizing his talents, however, is in the red-zone. Whether it be the system, scoring opportunities or quarterback play, Ertz did not get many chances to win in the red-zone, where his elite size, athleticism and ball skills should be put to use. Ertz ended 2015 with just two touchdowns, which ended up being a career low.
While Ertz has some flaws to his game and still has room to grow, this is a terrific signing for an Eagles team that isn’t that far from competing for the NFC East division and needn’t be wasting time worrying about future deals concerning their top young talents. With Ertz locked up, whoever ends up playing quarterback will now have a steady go-to option across the field, and hopefully in the red-zone, as well. Keeping Ertz for the long haul doesn’t guarantee the Eagles will be back in the playoff mix in 2015, but it’s a solid reinforcement that the talent they had on the roster already wasn’t a waste and that the new regime already feels they can make good use of numerous pieces on the current roster. A few strong moves going forward, and Ertz could end up playing a big hand in another turn around for the Eagles.