Barnwell: Cardinals trading for Eagles TE Zach Ertz at deadline makes sense
The NFL trade deadline is less than a month away, meaning the trade speculations and rumors only heighten until Nov. 3 comes and goes.
Looking across the league, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell put together a list of potential trade-deadline deals focused around players who could be dealt in 2020.
In one of the 13 trade proposals Barnwell mapped out sits the Arizona Cardinals, who get a big offensive piece for quarterback Kyler Murray in exchange for a linebacker that hasn’t quite met expectations in four years with the organization.
The deal focuses around Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro tight end Zach Ertz for Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick. The Cardinals also receive a 2022 sixth-round pick and give up a 2022 third-rounder.
The Cardinals would be taking a shot on Ertz over the next year before deciding whether they want to give him a contract extension, either after 2020 or 2021. He is expensive, and the Cards already have a lot invested at receiver, but they should be able to make the finances work while Murray remains a bargain. The sixth-rounder the Eagles are sending in 2022 could turn into a fifth-rounder if Ertz isn’t on the Arizona roster in 2021.
Ertz said at the beginning of the season that he’s been frustrated with the progress of a new deal that would keep him in Philadelphia for the rest of his career or at least close to it.
His current contract is up at the end of the 2021 season. The tight end is expected to make $8.3 million in the final year of his current deal, which muddies the water of the team’s cap space even more.
General manager Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia front office have a well-earned reputation for creative cap management, but 2021 looks tough. The Eagles are currently $68.4 million over their projected cap number for 2021, and while they can create cap room by renegotiating with players such as Carson Wentz and Fletcher Cox, they’re going to have to make some tough decisions. Cutting Alshon Jeffery, Marquise Goodwin and DeSean Jackson would free up $17.4 million, and moving on from Ertz next year would free up an additional $4.2 million.
It also doesn’t help that Ertz has taken a serious step back in the Eagles offense. Through five games, the TE has caught 20 balls for 145 yards (7.2 yards per catch) and one score.
Over the same span last season, Ertz recorded 29 receptions for 312 yards and a touchdown. He averaged more than 10 yards per reception.
Throw in fellow tight end Dallas Goedert, who has flashed as Ertz’s replacement, and the writing could be on the wall.
On the Arizona side of things, the Cardinals have struggled to get their tight ends more involved in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Dan Arnold paces the tight-end room with nine receptions and 97 yards. Jordan Thomas is the lone TE with a score, catching one ball for three yards and a score.
Murray hasn’t had a reliable target over the middle of the field; take out screen passes and his 79.7 passer rating on throws between the numbers ranks 27th in the league. The Cardinals don’t have much cap room — and they might want to add a pass-rusher after losing Chandler Jones to a biceps injury for the year — but Ertz would give Murray a safety blanket over the middle and see more one-on-one coverage with DeAndre Hopkins out wide.
As for former first-rounder Reddick, the LB hasn’t quite made the transition to the NFL that many thought he would when he was drafted back in 2017. His best year as a pro came in 2018, when Reddick recorded 80 tackles, eight for losses, 4.0 sacks, five pass deflections, a forced fumble and six QB hits in 16 games (12 starts).
He has yet to start a game in 2020, playing in just over half of the defensive snaps (51%), but has recorded 2.0 sacks (tied for the team-high), four QB hits and two pass deflections. He also has 10 tackles to his name, two for losses.
The deal looks decent for both sides, but their could be a snag, with outside linebacker Chandler Jones out for the season with a biceps injury, and Reddick being relied on more now in his place.