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Zach Ertz happy once again in Philadelphia: 'This is the place I want to retire'

It seems as if Zach Ertz has been this close to leaving Philadelphia for a couple of years.

Judging by his tone Wednesday, he's now closer to moving on with the Eagles than not.

Ertz has been quiet for much of the offseason while rumblings swirled around him regarding his displeasure with the organization and his future, which seemed likely to include a divorce from the only NFL franchise he's ever known. Just over a month ago, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Ertz remained unhappy despite reporting to Eagles camp on time. Nothing had changed on that front, Garafolo said, adding Ertz would have "loved" to team up with former Eagles teammate Carson Wentz in Indianapolis.

Ertz finally spoke at length Wednesday following the completion of another camp and preseason with the Eagles, and, apparently, the start of the Nick Sirianni era has the tight end convinced he wouldn't rather be anywhere else.

"Ultimately I'm here to just kind of put in the past. I'm not here to make it about me, ultimately. I'm excited be here," Ertz said. "This is the most fun I've had coming to work in a long time these past four weeks. ... It's been freeing to kind of just focus on football.

"Last year I was hurt, I had an ankle injury that was freakin' debilitating at times. I had surgery in the offseason and practicing at the end of the year just wasn't fun because it was a grind each and every day. Now I feel great, the ankle feels great.

"Just to come out here with a new coaching staff has been so much fun. Coming to compete everyday, which has been a blast which I love to do -- I never shy away from that. Ultimately -- like I've said all along -- this is the place I want to be and this is the place I want to retire. Those feelings haven't changed."

To make that wish come true, Ertz will need a contract extension. His current deal technically runs through 2023, but expires after the 2021 season thanks to two void years tacked on to the end of the agreement for salary cap purposes. He carries with him a $12.7 million cap hit for 2021, the highest of any of the six seasons of his existing deal.

At one point, it looked as if the financial side of his deal would prompt the Eagles to trade or release him. But Philadelphia began a fluid rebuild this offseason, trading away Wentz (and eating $33.8 million in dead cap in 2021) and turning over an aging roster with the hopes of becoming competitive quicker than a typical rebuild would allow.

That left room to keep Ertz on the roster at his current rate. But things get tricky next year, when Ertz still accounts for cap space despite not being under contract as a result of the aforementioned void years. Ertz will account for a small amount of cap space ($1.7 million) through 2023. And as it currently stands, the Eagles don't have a ton of projected cap space next season, thanks to a large amount of their resources being dedicated to the defensive line (Fletcher Cox at $23.7 million and Javon Hargrave at $17.8 million) and offensive line (Lane Johnson at $15.7 million and Brandon Brooks at $19.4 million).

It would seem letting Ertz walk would make the most financial sense, but when it comes to public relations, keeping Ertz would also be a wise decision. After all, he is a key part of an Eagles era that saw Philadelphia win its first Super Bowl. And he's broken down to tears on more than one occasion when talking about how much the city means to him.

It's why he stayed quiet this offseason, telling reporters he loved Philadelphia "too much to burn it down." He's ready to turn the page toward positivity with the hopes he stays in Philadelphia until his time in the NFL is finished.

"I'm moving on from everything that happened this offseason," Ertz said. "There have been apologies, there have been things that we've mended, and ultimately I'm here, I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to be a leader of this football team."

As he said, Ertz is healthy entering 2021 and still stands to be a threat in Philadelphia's revamped offense. With second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts now at the controls, it's important to have a reliable tight end for a quarterback to rely on, and Ertz can be that guy.

So too can Dallas Goedert, a younger tight end who appears very ready to fill the role atop the tight end depth chart. He's also entering a contract year, and at 26-years-old, would be the wiser investment from general manager Howie Roseman's perspective.

If it comes down to a choice between the two, the easy answer is Goedert. That might end up being Philadelphia's reality early next year.

For now, though, they have both, and Ertz wants nothing more than to maintain the status quo. They'll enter 2021 without finances on their mind, aiming to find success in an NFC East they're not expected to win.

Perhaps the Eagles will surprise some folks this season. Maybe they'll do the same by finding a way to keep Ertz in 2022, too.

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