After months of speculation, the Philadelphia Eagles found a trade partner for Zach Ertz- the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals are a good landing spot for Ertz after their starting tight end Maxx Williams was ruled out for the season. They’re also 5-0 currently, meaning Ertz gets an opportunity to start immediately for a contender.
For Ertz himself, this is a huge upgrade. In Philadelphia, Ertz had huge competition at tight end. Dallas Goedert was out-snapping and out-targeting Ertz. Goedert had only played eight snaps less than Ertz, despite playing a game less. Ertz left with more receptions and touchdowns, but this is predominantly due to injuries for Goedert. So for Ertz to be able to be the established TE1 on a depth chart is an instant improvement.
There are a lot of mouths to feed in Arizona. The Cardinals offense has high passing volume, with Kyler Murray fifth in passing yards for quarterbacks who have played five games. The Cardinals have seen contributions so far from DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, Rondale Moore, Christian Kirk, and of course Williams before his injury. It’s tough to rely on any Cardinals weapon for volume – something Ertz has needed to thrive so far in his career.
However, it’s worth noting that Williams was targeted sixteen times in the four full games that he played. That will provide Ertz with a stable floor, especially if he’s used similarly as a red-zone weapon.
Upgrade, can be treated as a low-end TE1
The same argument that shows this as a positive for Ertz can be used for Goedert. He’s now clear in the Eagles depth chart. Goedert has been averaging four targets a game when healthy and we can expect this to go up with the absence of Ertz. A crucial factor here for me is the lack of any other red zone weapons for the Eagles. Their other weapons are lacking in size, which should give Goedert great touchdown upside as a reliable pass catcher for Jalen Hurts.
Upgrade, can be treated as a low-end TE1
It’s worth talking quickly about the fallout of this trade for both quarterbacks. Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray have both been studs for fantasy football so far this season. Their rushing floors give them a huge upside for fantasy, even if they sometimes don’t perform so well in real life (especially in Hurts’ case).
I think that whilst this trade provides both teams with a stable TE1, I don’t think it should change the way you value each quarterback. First of all, these are both top five quarterbacks for fantasy football. Secondly, both already have decent enough weapons. As this point in career, Ertz is not a big enough needle mover for the Cardinals offense to have me upgrade Kyler Murray. Maybe if this had happened in 2016.
The main group with the potential to be affected by this move is the Cardinals wide receiver room. Already in Arizona, it’s difficult to predict which receiver is going to get targets on a given week. The Cardinals have a strong and deep core, with receivers offering different skillsets. The strength of this core adds unreliability for fantasy.
In 2021, DeAndre Hopkins (clearly the alpha in Arizona) has already seen 3 games with less than 5 catches. This is the same number as in his entire first season in Arizona in 2020. And one of those was against Jalen Ramsey.
The addition of Ertz adds another mouth to feed to a group that’s already pretty crowded. There are two main areas I would be worried about here. The first is red-zone targets. Currently, Hopkins leads the group on 6, with AJ Green right behind with 5. The addition of another big-bodied red zone weapon will guarantee less touchdown upside, particularly for Green who is already a touchdown-dependent fantasy option. The second would be shorter routes. Currently, the lowest ADOT (average depth of target) amongst Cardinals receivers is for Rondale Moore. Whilst this is mostly screens or manufactured targets, we could see a lot fewer targets to the slot, which is where Moore has lined up 63.8% – the most on the team. The other consideration here is less volume of targets out of the backfield, which could affect pass-catching running back Chase Edmonds.
It’s difficult to know how the Ertz trade might affect the Cardinals receiving core until we see how he’s used in the offense. But Ertz has normally been used as a big body receiver to move the chains, with hardly a broken tackle in sight, as well as a strong red zone option. Without knowing anything else, this addition adds an element of uncertainty to starting a Cardinal.
No change, but added volatility week to week
Image Credit: Kyle Terada – USA TODAY Sports