Just a year after being considered as the next NFL tight end candidate after Travis Kelce and George Kittle for a lucrative contract extension, Zach Ertz’s stock appears to be on a downward trend heading into 2021. Let’s look at Zach Ertz’s contract situation, his impact on the Philadelphia Eagles’ salary cap, and the team’s options when it comes to handling Ertz’s deal.
Zach Ertz’s contract details and bonuses
In 2016, the Eagles signed Zach Ertz to a five-year contract extension. The deal was worth $42.5 million, with $13.1 million guaranteed at signing, including an $8 million signing bonus.
The contract contained a total of $21 million in guarantees. The remaining guarantees saw $5.9 million of Ertz’s 2018 salary become guaranteed at the start of the 2017 NFL league year. A further $2 million became guaranteed at the beginning of the 2018 league year.
Ertz has restructured his deal three times during the extension. In 2017, Ertz converted $3.225 million of salary into a bonus, converting a further $7.21 million in salary to a bonus in 2018. The third restructure came in the 2019 season when he converted another $7.2 million in salary to a bonus.
Ertz’s contract length is for another year
Zach Ertz’s contract has another three years on it when it comes to salary cap impact. However, only one of the three seasons is an active contract year. The final two years in 2022 and 2023 are void years.
They were put into the deal to spread the impact of the 2019 contract restructure across four seasons instead of two. Those two years have $1.774 million in prorated bonus money. When Ertz’s deal voids after the 2021 season, the $1.774 million from 2023 will accelerate on to the 2022 salary cap.
What impact does Ertz’s deal have on the Eagles’ salary cap?
Zach Ertz’s cap number on his contract is $12.5 million in the 2021 season. As of February 9th, he will be the eighth-most expensive player in terms of cap hit on the Eagles’ books in the 2021 season. However, the Eagles have some work to do to clear salary cap space.
The projected salary cap is expected to be around $180 million, according to Adam Schefter. The Eagles have approximately $22 million to rollover from 2020 leaving them with a salary cap number of about $202 million. The Eagles’ current salary cap commitments place them just below $250 million, meaning they project to be around $47 million over the cap.
Can the Eagles move on from Zach Ertz’s contract this offseason?
The Eagles are going to have some extremely tough decisions to make this offseason.
Zach Ertz and the one year he has remaining on his contract is one such decision. With Dallas Goedert likely looking for an extension, the Eagles may need to decide to move on from Ertz to create space for an extension for Goedert. However, the Eagles have other options for managing Ertz’s impact on their salary cap.
Could the Eagles release Zach Ertz?
Ertz is set to earn $8.25 million in base salary in 2021. Yet, with no money in guarantees, the Eagles could clear it all by releasing Zach Ertz and his contract. However, while the void years were valuable at the time of the restructure, they would have an impact on the Eagles’ cap space in 2021. If Ertz sees his release, the $3.5 million in prorated bonus money in those void years will accelerate on to the Eagles’ salary cap in 2021.
Zach Ertz already has $4.2 million in prorated bonus money on his 2021 contract number. Therefore, with the additional $3.5 million from the void years, the Eagles would be left with $7.77 million in dead money in 2021.
How much would Zach Ertz cost if the Eagles traded him and his contract?
Zach Ertz’s contract structure at this stage means the Eagles would have the same dead money if they released or traded him. Therefore, in a trade, the Eagles would be left with $7.77 million in dead money.
The team acquiring Ertz would take on his $8.5 million in salary. Interestingly, that is the same value as the average annual value (AAV) of Ertz’s contract when he signed it. Therefore, the team acquiring Ertz would be committing to the seventh highest-paid tight end in AAV.
Could the Eagles restructure or extend Zach Ertz’s contract?
Restructuring his contract is something that Zach Ertz is more than used to. A restructure in 2021 would be his fourth contract restructure in five years.
The Eagles could look to convert around $7 million of his 2021 base salary into a signing bonus. That would save around $4.8 million in salary cap space in 2021. However, it would push Ertz’s cap hit to around $8.2 million after his contract voids in February of 2022.
The Eagles could also revisit the idea of a contract extension for Zach Ertz. The issue will be on the subject of value. Ertz likely views himself on a similar plane to Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Yet, after a tough 2020, the Eagles are unlikely to want to commit over $10 million per year to Ertz. Therefore, a contract extension may be a tough deal to make.