The Jets’ tight end situation isn’t settled, but acquiring Zach Ertz wouldn’t have accomplished much
The NFL’s rich became even richer on Friday morning.
Arizona, home of the undefeated Cardinals, struck a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to send tight end Zach Ertz to Glendale.
Ertz, set to turn 31 in November, is one of the most accomplished tight ends in recent NFL history, tallying 6,267 yards on 579 receptions in a career that began in 2013. The separation from the Eagles has been an emotional one, as Ertz was part of their historic Super Bowl team in the 2017-18 season.
Some see Ertz’s move out west as a missed opportunity for the New York Jets. The team has struggled to find reliable receiving, particularly in the tight end slot as the unit has struggled to the tune of a measly 95 yards through the bye week.
But Jet X has three reasons why avoiding Ertz is the best-case scenario for all sides.
Instant (and only instant) fix
Ever since Chris Herndon’s rookie flame was snuffed out, the Jets have had major issues in the tight end’s role. Alas, Rich Caster and Mickey Shuler aren’t walking through that door. The two options on their modern depth chart (Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin) have united for zero touchdowns and three first downs on 14 receptions over the first five games of 2021.
Trading for Ertz – whose production has drastically dropped as Philadelphia made the transition from Carson Wentz to Jalen Hurts – could’ve given Zach Wilson an established target in his rookie season and perhaps some stability in this uncertain stage of his freshman season.
But Ertz to the Jets would’ve been the football equivalent of a visit to the Taco Bell drive-thru: there’s delicious instant gratification to be had, but it might do something about your long-term health.
Any deal made with Ertz would require a longer commitment, one for which the Jets definitely have the resources in terms of cap space. But how much do you want to dedicate to a single tight end who may never match the production of his prime?
No active tight end is going to enough to thrust the Jets into playoff contention on his own (maybe Travis Kelce?), so it’s good the Jets avoided making any major commitments to such a veteran.
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Ertz-while championship experience
If one were to look up the ever-changing definition of “one move away” in the professional sports glossary, Ertz’s face would probably appear as a visual aid. His arrival in Glendale gives the undefeated Cardinals another weapon to work with as they try to break away from a crowded NFC West that won’t relent, even after a win over the Rams.
Exactly what purpose, from a postseason standpoint would Ertz play with the Jets?
Say what you will about what Joe Douglas, but the Jets’ general manager did right by his veterans when he embarked on an in-season fire sale in 2020. The tenured Steven McLendon and Avery Williamson were dealt to contenders, the former eventually hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with Tampa Bay.
Philadelphia management was doing the same for Ertz, who will undoubtedly be granted a rare, warm Philadelphia welcome back to Lincoln Financial Field upon his eventual retirement. Trading him to the Jets would’ve been an almost cruel gesture, but his move to Arizona is one last thanks for his years of service.
They got more for much less
Dishing off Herndon was a move that has quickly proven to be addition by subtraction: even as the Jets’ newcomers at tight end have struggled to make an impact, they’ve done more than Herndon, who has struggled to find a role in Minnestoa’s offense after a September trade made him a Viking.
Over five games, Herndon has been targeted for only two passes and has seen only 50 offensive snaps. In return for that, the Jets were able to snag a fourth-round pick out of the deal that put Herndon in purple. For Ertz, Arizona sent over a sixth-round choice and Tay Gowan, a rookie cornerback who was drafted 223rd overall in the sixth round.
As discussed above, Ertz’s destiny was geared toward being a championship rental, a luxury the Jets are nowhere near close to accepting. Even if Ertz isn’t what he once was, trading for him probably would’ve meant parting with a piece of their sizable draft surplus, which includes eight picks over the first four rounds.
For a team that can use all the help it can get, that wasn’t worth a handful of games with Ertz, whose realistic best-case scenario in New York was ending up on the all-time “Wait, He Played for the Jets?!?!” team.
The Jets just pulled off a great tight end robbery in Minnesota. There’s no need to make themselves the victim of another such caper.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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