Zach Ertz and the Eagles have finally split.
Philadelphia agreed to trade the veteran tight end to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for rookie cornerback Tay Gowan and Arizona's 2022 fifth-round pick. The teams confirmed the trade Friday morning.
Ertz has gotten emotional on multiple occasions over the last couple of years, knowing his time with the only NFL franchise he's ever known was likely nearing its end. He fought back tears during an end-of-season press conference in January, remained quiet through the offseason as rumors swirled regarding his displeasure with his current situation, and then publicly mended fences with Eagles management at the start of the season with the declaration he'd like to retire in Philadelphia.
Ertz was again emotional following Philadelphia's Thursday night loss to Tampa Bay. Now we certainly know why.
"I was crying in the locker room last night for 30 minutes. I felt bad because the guys didn't really know, but I couldn't help it," Ertz told reporters Friday. "It was special. Last January against Washington, there were no fans, so it was weird. I'm glad I didn't end it like that last January. It was special last night. Obviously we didn't win, which sucked, but it was fun. It was fun to do what I do out there, and I felt like I played great, was myself, and I'm excited to go to Arizona."
Ertz's storied time with the Eagles, which began in 2013 and included three Pro Bowl selections and a triumph in Super Bowl LII, is over. It's telling that the Eagles gave Ertz a farewell press conference Friday, but it's not surprising Ertz again became emotional saying goodbye -- this time, legitimately.
"Some of the most iconic moments of this franchise were from Zach," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Friday. "Just a tremendous appreciation for him as a player, Eagles Hall of Famer, on the verge of maybe the NFL Hall of Fame. It's a hard day in terms of why we did this. It was about opportunity, opportunity for the Eagles, opportunity for Zach."
Ertz leaves Philadelphia with the second-most receptions in club history (trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael by just 10 receptions) and fifth in receiving yards. He caught a touchdown pass in his final game as an Eagle, and hopes he might get a chance to return at some point in the future, perhaps with a chance to move past Carmichael -- and to retire as an Eagle, as he'd stated was his desire earlier this season.
Perhaps that awaits Ertz in the future. Right now, he's headed out the door. Roseman made it clear their split was amicable.
"This isn't Days of Our Lives. Zach's somebody that we have a very, very close relationship with," Roseman said. "That doesn't mean, just like everybody in their personal lives, there aren't ups and downs and there are moments when you don't see eye to eye, but this is a guy who's family to us. I don't know how many other players since I've been here that you talk to two days before a game and you talk about the opportunity and you talk through it with them.
"Zach will be a friend for life, we'll be celebrating for life. This isn't like an obituary here. I said when we left, we aren't saying goodbye. There's no hard feelings at all. It's family with us and Zach. I drafted Zach Ertz. I signed him a couple times. And I still have a picture of us together with our family after we won the Super Bowl, and his game ball when he set the single-season tight end record. There's no issues. None."
A trade that most expected to arrive in the offseason came Friday, and essentially amounts to the Eagles getting some sort of return on Ertz's existing value before his current contract expires at the end of this season. The Eagles receive a cornerback they can hope to develop in Gowan, a 2021 sixth-round pick out of UCF who has yet to take the field in a regular-season game, and a late-round pick.
More importantly, the Eagles get a chance to give Dallas Goedert -- their long-term replacement for and near carbon copy of Ertz -- the full amount of opportunities to contribute, which he'd been splitting with Ertz. Goedert and Ertz will both be free agents this offseason, and with Goedert being five years younger than Ertz, it was an easy call to make between the two.
"It's become pretty clear to us that going forward we weren't going to be able to have both of those guys," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said of Ertz and Goedert. "They're both free agents at the end of the year. It gives us an opportunity for Dallas to step up and be that No. 1 guy, really have that opportunity for the first time in his career and play a lot. It gives him the opportunity to also put his stamp as a leader on this team."
Ertz heads to Arizona to provide the Cardinals with much-needed help at tight end, a position group that lost Maxx Williams to a serious knee injury suffered in last week's win over the San Francisco 49ers. Because he played Thursday night, Ertz will not be eligible to participate in Arizona's game against the Browns (3-2) on Sunday in Cleveland, but it's likely he'll use the time to process what many have seen coming yet is still difficult to bear.
He'll also need to get up to speed on the playbook. Arizona's high-flying offense doesn't intend to slow down any time soon, especially not after adding a talent like Ertz to the mix.