This wasn't an easy moment for the Eagles or for Howie Roseman or for Zach Ertz. Friday was an emotional day. Friday was a day the Eagles parted ways with one of their great players, Ertz, who was so instrumental in the team's Super Bowl LII victory and who has been a leader and a Pro Bowl player in his nine seasons in Philadelphia.
It wasn't easy, but it was the right thing to do. If there was ever a win/win situation, trading Ertz to the 5-0 Arizona Cardinals and getting back a 2022 fifth-round draft pick and rookie cornerback Tay Gowan was it. Painful, but the right thing to do. And so the Eagles did it, announcing a trade they had all but agreed to a couple of days earlier, keeping Ertz in the conversational loop the whole way, making him a captain for Thursday night's game against Tampa Bay, having him catch a touchdown pass, and then officially consummating the deal on Friday morning.
In the span of a few days, so many emotions. So many memories. So much professionalism in a trade that leaves all sides feeling the human part of the game, yes, but also understanding that it was the right thing to do.
"This was the right opportunity," Roseman said on Friday. "This was the best opportunity for both us and Zach. And I think you've got to look at it really from our perspective and never going to be easy trading Zach Ertz. Not easy, not an easy day for any of us. But from our perspective, the opportunity to see Dallas (Goedert) and see Dallas in a larger role and obviously he's a free agent (after 2021). And there's no secret that that's, obviously, something here going forward that we have to address. 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.
"Then you talk about our young guys, and I think what changed a little for us was the surprise of camp, and it was just camp because we didn't see it in the preseason games was Tyree (Jackson) and just seeing how he's working to get back and the skills that he has in his body. We want to make sure that we're going into next year knowing as much as we could. If he's going to look like he did during Training Camp, like, that's going to be a player for us. But he's got to show it in games. And this is an opportunity for him to come back and for us to see that. We don't think that's just a shot in the dark. We think this guy's got some traits.
"So, we want to see that, and Jack (Stoll) and Noah (Togiai) are two guys we've been high on. So, this isn't like we think we're bare at that position. And then we talk about, obviously, you get a fifth-round pick and we've had some success in the fifth round, and we get a corner that we thought would be a chance to be a player. And then, obviously, there's money involved, too (savings from the salary cap in trading Ertz), that could add to another player. So, I think that was our opportunity. Again, not downplaying a Hall of Fame player in terms of Zach Ertz, but that's why we made the move."
The Eagles' "transition," in progress as we know, is coming through the NFL Draft. And adding more draft capital from this trade gives the Eagles 10 picks in 2022, including four in the first two rounds including, potentially, three first-round picks (their own, plus ones from Miami and Indianapolis). This is a roster getting younger by the day and we've already seen the 2021 Rookie Class contribute immediately. Trading Ertz gives Goedert, the team's first draft pick in 2018, an opportunity to find his rhythm as a full-time starter. In Goedert's time here, he has never played more than 66 percent of the offensive snaps, so this is a real chance for him to be THE GUY.
The Eagles also think Stoll, signed after the 2021 NFL Draft after his fine career at Nebraska, has solid upside. Jackson wowed everyone in Training Camp with his athletic ability and rapid transition from quarterback at the University of Buffalo to tight end in the NFL, so once his rehabilitation from a back injury is complete, he will get reps this season. Togiai is a young tight end the Eagles were high on when they signed him coming out of Oregon State in 2020 and now he's back on the practice squad after time with Indianapolis last season.
Gowan is a player who opted out of the 2020 college season from the University of Central Florida because of COVID-19 and the Eagles had a keen interest in him during the 2021 draft process. He is another young talent to add to the mix.
"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. He was an opt-out guy last year. We spent a lot of time with him personally before the draft. And again, it gives us a chance to add a young corner to that room."
On Friday, the story was about the trade of Zach Ertz and the myriad pieces that went into the decision. These are always complicated moves that require short-term decisions and long-term strategic thinking. Ertz joins an undefeated Arizona team loaded with offensive weapons and he will finish out the season there. The Eagles are going to continue to search for answers as they grow and develop and nurture a young roster and a young coaching staff that will take this mini-bye weekend and start to look ahead and prepare for the Raiders and the 11 regular-season games that remain in 2021.