Zach Ertz had the unique opportunity to play one more game in Philadelphia, knowing he would be traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
He scored a touchdown, spiked the ball and cried for 30 minutes at his locker after the Eagles lost to Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
On Friday, the deal was official. The Eagles sent the three-time Pro Bowl tight end to the undefeated Cardinals for cornerback Tay Gowan and a 2022 fifth-round pick.
“This is home. Philadelphia is home,” Ertz said, choking up a few times during an emotional video conference. “These people love their team, they love the Eagles, they love their players. This city loves their players. And they want to see us succeed as much if not more than we want to succeed. And so for me, it’s what I loved about this place.”
Ertz, who caught the winning touchdown TD pass in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over New England that brought the only Super Bowl victory to Philadelphia, already said goodbye to the city after last season but wasn’t traded in the offseason. He’s in the final year of his contract and his negotiations for an extension turned his relationship with the organization into an acrimonious one at times.
Still, Ertz showed up to training camp, vowed to put any bitterness in the past and played hard, as usual.
“I was just grateful to be around Zach, the type of player Zach is, the type of person Zach is, the type of leader Zach is,” rookie coach Nick Sirianni said. “I was grateful to be around him. We shared a moment after the game yesterday and Zach was emotional. I was able to go talk to him after that and just let him know what I thought about him as a person and as a player because I’ve got so much respect for Zach Ertz and everything that he’s done.”
A second-round pick by the Eagles (2-4) in 2013, Ertz set an NFL record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 in 2018. He caught the second-most passes in franchise history, only 10 behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael. Ertz had 579 catches for 6,267 yards and 38 touchdowns. He joked about coming back to break the record at some point before he retires.
But the 30-year-old Ertz has plenty of football left to play as he joins Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and the NFC West-leading Cardinals (5-0).
“Excited. I heard nothing but great things about him,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I think he’ll fit right in with this locker room.”
Arizona lost Maxx Williams to a season-ending injury to his right knee during last weekend’s 17-10 win over the 49ers. The 27-year-old Williams was on pace for a career year before his knee buckled at the end of a 14-yard catch in the second quarter. He had caught 16 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown in five games.
Ertz had four receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown during Thursday night’s 28-22 loss to the Buccaneers. He was informed by general manager Howie Roseman about the pending trade on Tuesday night and played anyway.
“It was a hard night on Tuesday night having those conversations, but they were honest,” Roseman said. “They were good. Zach’s an Eagle for life. Zach’s family, that will never change. And just very appreciative of him and his contributions.”
Ertz and his wife, soccer star Julie Ertz, have invested plenty of resources into the community and promised to continue with their charitable efforts in Philadelphia, including their House of Hope project.
Gowan was selected by the Cardinals in the sixth round of this year’s draft. The 6-foot-2 Gowan has yet to appear in a regular-season game.
“He’s a guy we spent a lot of time with in the draft process,” Roseman said. “He was somebody that we would have considered with our sixth-round pick. He was in a group of names. He went right before we picked and he’s a long corner. He’s got tremendous speed."
Ertz’s departure clears the way for Dallas Goedert to be the clear No. 1 tight end. Goedert is also in the final year of his contract.
“There’s no secret that that’s, obviously, something here going forward that we have to address,” Roseman said. “And so, getting him in a role where it’s not just sharing time and he’s the guy because in terms of our bargaining power, there’s going to be no discount on Dallas Goedert. So, we know that, so we want to get as much information and give him as much opportunity to take over that and see him in that role as much as possible, as opposed to guessing on it.”
AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report.
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