As a new season begins, a new contract is still to be had for Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
One of the faces of the squad and a constant standout no matter the hardships the team has endured, Ertz has made it clear he wants to remain an Eagle for the "long run," but is uncertain if the franchise's sentiment is mutual.
With nothing put to paper and the matter still very much unresolved, Eagles coach Doug Pederson's taking a somewhat diplomatic approach and just hoping to move on to the regular season, which begins Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
"He and I, we get along extremely well," Pederson said Friday, via team transcript. "I love having him. We game plan for him. I just hope we can put all that behind us and move on to football."
Given Ertz' track record, one that's seen him consistently produce as one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the game, showcase his versatility by lining up wherever he's needed and hauling in likely the most important touchdown in Eagles history, moving on to football's hardly been a chore for the three-time Pro Bowler.
Though reluctant to talk about the contract matters, Pederson sung his tight end's praises.
"Look, I'm not going to get into a ton of this because my expertise is not necessarily the contract stuff and those types of issues," Pederson said. "All I know is Zach Ertz is a tremendous football player, he's a great person, love having him on this football team. He is a leader, and he's helped us, gosh, he's helped us win a lot of games around here. He led our team in receptions and he's a big part, he's a valuable part of what we do offensively, but also as a team."
Ertz is coming off a season in which he caught 88 passes (third among tight ends) for 916 yards (fourth) and six touchdowns (fourth) on 135 targets (second). The 29-year-old is one of the best tight ends around. In the aftermath of 49ers tight end George Kittle (five years, $75 million) and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (four years, $57 million) signing mega-deals, Ertz' ambition for a long-term and lucrative pact of his own doesn't seem all that outlandish.
With two seasons left on his current deal, Ertz is due $6.6 million and $8.25 million over the final two years, respectively. Having signed a five-year, $42.5 million extension in 2016, Ertz has averaged $8.5 million a season – which is seventh in the NFL at TE.
While Kittle and Kelce are putting up historic numbers for the position, so too is Ertz.
Since signing his extension in 2016, he's second only behind Kelce at tight end with 356 receptions, 3,719 yards and 26 touchdown grabs, per NFL Research. And should Ertz produce 85 or more catches again, he would become the only tight end to ever do that in three straight seasons.
The Eagles do have Dallas Goedert at tight end, as well. There's always that. Ertz has been Carson Wentz' top target for years and he and Goedert have meshed well. But Ertz is turning 30 shortly, Goedert's a younger, less expensive option and the Eagles are heading for a difficult year in 2021 with the cap and it appears talks have stalled in terms of an Ertz extension.
The Eagles' former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, Nick Foles, is now in Chicago. The tight end who caught the game-winning pass from Foles in that first and only Super Bowl triumph for Phily could well be a cap casualty. But that's beyond this year and for now, Pederson's just looking to Sunday and the regular season.
"I'm excited that he's here," Ertz said. "I'm excited that he's an Eagle."