Arizona Cardinals on the free agent cusp: Tight end Zach Ertz
The Arizona Cardinals have decisions to make this offseason, especially when it comes down to free agency.
With more than a handful of key contributors’ contracts expiring, Arizona must decide whether to re-sign the guys they’ve come to know or test the waters for some new blood.
Before the offseason and free agency gets into full swing, Arizona Sports Cardinals reporter Tyler Drake and fellow editors Kevin Zimmerman, Kellan Olson and Jake Anderson share their thoughts on who might stay and who will go.
Greetings, tight end Zach Ertz.
Ertz was a midseason addition to Arizona’s starting lineup after tight end Maxx Williams went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.
Arizona acquired the tight end in exchange for rookie cornerback Tay Gowan and the team’s 2022 fifth-round pick.
The tight end just wrapped up a five-year deal worth $42.5 million.
Ertz’s wife Julie is a Valley native.
Currently, the Cardinals have Bernhard Seikovits and David Wells signed to future deals. Ertz, Demetrius Harris, Williams and Darrell Daniels are all free agents.
The pros greatly outweigh the cons when it comes to Ertz.
After joining the team with the season already underway, the tight end was steadfast in finding his place in the offense.
Through 11 games, Ertz caught 56 of his 81 targets for 574 yards and three touchdowns. He was second on the team in catches and third in receiving yards.
He was quick to show his worth in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, scoring a touchdown to go along with 66 yards on three catches in a Week 5 win over the Houston Texans.
Outside of his play on the field, Ertz also provides a veteran voice and the type of character any team would want within its organization.
Shortly after joining the Cardinals, Ertz launched the “Score More n’ Feed More” campaign, which donated 5,000 meals for every Arizona touchdown, totaling 145,000 meals for Arizona food banks. He also kept his charitable efforts back in Philadelphia.
The biggest con on re-signing Ertz will be the attention he will get from other teams and how much that will impact the kind of price tag he’ll carry.
He’s a proven commodity and showed how quickly he can impact a team.
If the Cardinals think Ertz is among their top priorities, where does that leave the other positions of need such as cornerback?
There’s also the tight end’s injury history to take into account. While he managed to play in all but one game (the contest shortly after he was traded) following Arizona’s acquisition of the tight end this past season, Ertz popped up on the team’s injury report a few times with hamstring and shoulder issues.
In 2020, Ertz missed five games due to an ankle injury. He caught just one touchdown that season, a career low. Ertz was also coming off a sluggish start to 2021, starting three of his six games played, before getting a jolt to the system in Arizona.
Pro Football Focus projects the tight end’s next contract to be in the two-year, $22 million range with $12.5 million guaranteed.
Drake: Ertz is going to command quite a few suitors this offseason just based off of his track record. In 11 games with Arizona, Ertz showed he could still hang with the best of them in Year 9. Price will come into consideration, especially with Williams another option at the position to consider this free agency, but keeping a weapon around like Ertz makes sense.
Likelihood of returning?
Drake: Medium. On top of the chemistry he quickly built with Murray, Ertz’s family has Arizona ties. Seems like a solid recipe for an extended stay with the Cardinals but is the money going to be right?
Zimmerman: Low. On the pass-catching realm, receiver is going to be a bigger priority, and Williams — if the team believes he’ll be healthy — could be had at value.
Olson: Low. Take my pessimistic mindset under consideration when I say I think the Cardinals will lean on the production Williams had pre-injury instead of paying up for both Ertz and Williams. Unless Ertz is cheaper than we expect, I just don’t see it.
Anderson: Medium. We saw Williams show that he could handle TE 1 duties for the Cardinals before his season-ending ACL injury. But Ertz’s wife, Julie, is a Mesa native who currently plays for Angel City FC in Los Angeles. So while he has reason to stay in the Valley, I also worry he could end up in L.A.