DAN BICKLEY

Zach Ertz trade is proof the Cardinals are all in for 2021

Oct 15, 2021, 4:15 PM | Updated: 4:23 pm

Zach Ertz has pedigree. He has a Super Bowl ring. He won’t play on Sunday and he’s already the best tight end in Arizona Cardinals history.

His presence is a declaration. He is proof the Cardinals are all in to win in 2021. Our NFL franchise is betting on beating the Suns to the Valley’s second major professional championship.

Let the race begin.

On the field, Ertz can be a dangerous weapon. At 6-foot-5, he’s a big target for Kyler Murray. His route running ranks among the best tight ends in the league. He is 30 years old with sure hands, and he owns the NFL single-season record for receptions as a tight end (116).

His run blocking is average, at best. But the emergence of Maxx Williams in 2021 proved an important point: After Murray gained mastery of the playbook, the tight end became more of a target in the passing game, where Williams was very successful in providing intermediate threats and spreading the field.

That presence was AWOL against the 49ers, where the high-flying Cardinals were suddenly grounded, struggling to score 17 points.

Ertz adds to the collective character. He is a veteran leader. Just like J.J. Watt and A.J. Green, he ranks as an all-time great in the city he left behind. Those kinds of guys bring a different kind of energy and heat to the room. They help build a better culture.

He clearly meant a lot to the city of Philadelphia, where fans aren’t easily impressed. Ertz knew of the trade before Thursday’s loss to the Buccaneers, a game where Ertz was named captain; caught a touchdown pass and was filmed in an emotional scene outside the Eagles locker room. It was a fitting farewell for a local fan favorite, and a guy who can’t wait for a fresh start.

“Obviously, I’m extremely excited to be going to the Arizona Cardinals to play for a team that’s rolling right now and just be able to add my skill set to that team,” Ertz told reporters on Friday. “Ecstatic about that situation and just looking forward to going into that building and showing the type of player I am, the work ethic I have, with no expectation. Just want to win football games …”

The acquisition of Ertz is a powerful statement to the rest of the NFL. The Cardinals are the only unbeaten team in the NFC in a year when the conference’s top seed will be the only team that receive a first-round bye. That is an enormous advantage, and the Cardinals control that conversation. Especially with upcoming games against three other legitimate NFC contenders (Packers, Cowboys, Rams).

It’s also a strong message to their own locker room. Adding Ertz is proof that ownership and the front office share a championship mentality, adding a significant piece to the mix, reinforcing a team that now has the most dangerous offense in the NFC.

That raises the stakes for everyone. And even though Ertz won’t play until Week 7, his presence will surely be felt on the football field. It should motivate his new teammates to find another level and remain unbeaten, fighting through all injury and adversity they might face in Cleveland.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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