On October 24, 2021, Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Murray at State Farm Stadium. It was the second play of the game and his presence on the score had the Glendale crowd go wild. Ertz, who had been acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles just nine days earlier. His debut for Arizona helped the Cardinals to a 31-5 drubbing of the Houston Texans. His star line for the day was huge: 66 yards on 12 targets. He also had a touchdown that went for 47 yards on only an 18-yard pass.
Kyler Murray & Zach Ertz (47-yard TD)
Ertz reached a top speed of 17.94 mph on the play, his fastest speed as a ball carrier over the last four seasons (since 2018).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 24, 2021
The Cardinals Should Trade Zach Ertz
That was then, and this is now.
The Arizona Cardinals are a team in discovery mode. A team looking for an identity, and a reclamation project head coach Jonathan Gannon does not like to dignify with such a label. However, when you are a team predicted to win anywhere from zero to four games, creative thinking is a must. For fans, wish-casting need not apply. The Cardinals need talent and not the veteran type.
Ertz is a tight end who is closer to 33 years of age than 32. His best years could be elsewhere if traded to a team on the brink of a Super Bowl run. The Cardinals are not. Arizona is closer to a No.1 overall draft pick than a No. 1 seed in the NFL postseason. With the once top-line player coming off of a torn ACL and MCL, Ertz is cleared to return full-time to football activities.
Timing being what it is, it is also time to take a long look at what reason exists to keep him for the 2023 NFL season. Every move this off-season and those moves yet to come prior to the 2024 draft is about clearing space for the future. Ertz has two years left on his contract with the Cardinals. If he remains in Arizona, the organization owns only $5 million in dead cap space.
Ertz is a still highly productive commodity that can help a team win and win now. In 2022, the Cardinals tight end caught 47 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns over 10 games. While fans in Glendale would want him to stay, the reasons to let him go make much greater sense.
One big reason the Cardinals should trade Zach Ertz is second-year tight end Trey McBride. The Cardinals are looking to invest more heavily in McBride this season. If he’s second on the depth chart behind Ertz, that investment does not happen. The Colorado State product was Arizona’s top pick in the 2022 draft but was slow to get out of the gate. It is not uncommon for young tight ends to be a work-in-progress early in their career. For the Cardinals, Ertz was a presence who allowed McBride to figure it out at the NFL level. Now, Gannon and the offensive brain trust want to see what the second-year player can do. Trading Ertz allows Arizona to find out.
First TD of his career 🎉
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 1, 2023
Zach Ertz is a player more valuable in the draft picks he can return to the Cardinals than any play he can give them this season. If Arizona keeps him into the season, he likely does not last long. Especially as GM Monti Ossenfort looks to collect draft options for 2024. That is when NFL football should be good again in the Desert Southwest.
Main Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports