Philadelphia Eagles are saving money by re-signing Zach Ertz now


On the surface, it may seem like the Philadelphia Eagles overpaid Zach Ertz with his shiny new contract extension.

In a way, this may be true, but in other ways, it’s not. Re-signing him now may have saved this team a lot of money.

First, let’s take a look at Ertz’s new contract, which is for five years and $42.5 million ($20 million guaranteed) and kicks in in 2017. According to, Ertz will make $5.6 million in 2017 and will make just $3.31 million in 2016, the final year of his rookie contract. After that, the cap hit goes up, reaching a peak of $9.6 million in 2018, then steadily decreasing each year to $9.1 million, $8.85 million and $7.75 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Now, nearly half of this contract is guaranteed, but the Eagles could already save money if necessary if for some reason he turns into a disaster of a player, which seems highly unlikely. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume they decide they need to get rid of him after 2017 (again, which is not likely). They could already save $4.8 million in cap space by cutting him, which is half of his cap hit in 2018. This number goes up to $7.725 million in 2020, which is the year he’ll turn 30. So, if for whatever reason they need to dump him, they don’t have to eat a huge amount of his contract by then.

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But the most important thing to consider is where he compares to other tight ends in the league. His new contract makes him the fourth highest paid tight end in the league at the moment, but again, that’s a bit misleading. In 2017, he will be just the 10th highest paid tight end in the league, around where I’d probably rank him among other tight ends in the NFL. In 2018 he jumps to the fourth highest paid in the league, but 2017 is a huge class in free agency for tight ends. The tight ends expected to be free agents after 2017 are Jordan Cameron, Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Tyler Eifert, Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed. This group makes up a large portion of the top tight ends in the league, and especially the last three are expected to get big new contracts once they sign extensions or sign with a new team.

All three of those guys (in addition to Walker, who has put up better stats than Ertz in each of the last two years), deserve more money than Ertz. So in a way, the Eagles set the market for the next round of tight end contracts, but in this case they may be saving a lot of money. Had the Eagles waited till the end of 2016, or even March during this year’s free agency, some of these guys may have already received contract extensions. And then the Eagles may have felt pressure from Ertz’s agent to receive higher amounts than those who just received new contracts, as is true with many players nowadays who try to play keeping up with the Joneses with new contracts.

It’s certainly a risk by setting the tight end market right now, but with so many good tight ends set to be free agents soon, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see many of them end up with bigger contracts than Ertz. And then, Ertz will drop back down to about the 10th highest paid tight end in the league, just around where he belongs. And if Ertz turns out to explode and have an amazing career going forward? Then the Eagles either paid him what he’s worth or even got him for a discount.

Still not convinced it was a good contract? By 2018, the team salary cap is expected to go up to around $170 million, and this doesn’t even account for the team’s actual salary cap, which could be significantly higher since cap space carries over from year to year. For reference, the Eagles had about $8.3 million in cap space in 2015, which will carry over to 2016. So, the team’s actual salary cap by 2018, which is when Ertz’s contract spikes, could be between $190-200 million. Even if their cap is somehow just $170 million, Ertz’s $9.6 million that year will account for just 5.6 percent of the salary cap, compared to 3.2 percent, which is what each player would count against the cap if all 53 players received the exact same amount (170 million divided by 53). If the Eagles’ cap is $190 million by 2018, Ertz will account for just over 5 percent of the team’s salary cap, a very small amount.

In conclusion, people just need to get used to the fact that NFL players are going to continue to receive very large sums of money. Every time someone signs a new contract, it’s going to be a lot bigger than what it would’ve been a few years prior. That’s just how it works now with the salary cap steadily rising. Ertz is going to receive a lot of money, but so will a lot of other tight ends, and relatively, his contract probably won’t seem that high anymore.

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