It’s June 14th, and with respect to Maxx Williams, the Arizona Cardinals currently do not have a capable receiving tight end on their roster.
Now you could make the argument that after the arrival of wide receivers A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, the team is best positioned to fully embrace the “10 personnel” approach. This of course being the package of four wide receivers and a single back; something that head coach Kliff Kingsbury was often known for during his time at Texas Tech.
“I’ll always love ‘10’ personnel but we felt like as the season went on, we were able to do some different things and be in some different packages that played into our strengths,” Kingsbury said last August (via AZCardinals.com)
This quote would foreshadow the presence of year two TE Dan Arnold, who quickly became a preseason darling by every fantasy analyst imaginable.
And while his 2020 numbers appear rather pedestrian (438 receiving yards, four touchdowns), those marks would represent the most productive year for an Arizona Cardinal tight end since Rob Housler’s 454 receiving effort in 2013.
If you consider both said seasons to be a wash, only Freddie Jones has managed to eclipse the 500 yard receiving mark (517) for a Cardinal tight end since 2003.
Those numbers should only reaffirm the notion that the tight end position has not been friendly to the Cardinals in more ways than one.
Yet with Arnold, the Cardinals had somewhat of a home grown prospect that plugged in nicely as Kingsbury’s primary option down the seam. At 6’6, he was a prime redzone target for young Kyler Murray and was often times the most consistent receiving option on the team outside of All Pro DeAndre Hopkins.
Then came free agency this past March, and while the Cardinals had real interest in bringing back Arnold, they were not willing to match what the Panthers dished out to secure the former D-III product.
TE Dan Arnold to sign with Panthers on 2-year deal https://t.co/qe9k0kerCA— Jess Root (@senorjessroot) March 20, 2021
For those who scuff on the money, remember that it was Saints head coach Sean Payton who plucked Arnold out of Wisconsin-Platteville as a developmental prospect. The Saints attempted to stash Arnold on their practice squad , but he was quickly scooped up on waivers by Keim in December of 2019.
He would respond with over 100 yards receiving in just three games with the redbirds.
So as we sit here in mid-June, with real concern that general manager Steve Keim misjudged the tight end market, what options are left for Arizona?
The free agent market, or what’s left of it, leaves much to be desired. That is unless you fancy yourself a fan of Trey Burton.
The more likely avenue in which to secure an upgrade is that of the trade market, with several notable names seemingly available for the right price.
The biggest name on that list being Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.
Talks on a potential Zach Ertz trade have been ongoing for quite some time but fairly quiet of late. At least three TE-needy teams have looked into this. Eagles have made clear they won't part for nothing in return, making a release unlikely. Things could pick back up this week.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 1, 2021
The general consensus from insiders that cover the Eagles is that it’s a matter of “when” not “if” Ertz is moved. He is part of the old regime in Philly and has a pretty healthy cap hit of $12,721,500 after coming off an injury plagued 2020. The Eagles are also high on former 2018 second round pick Dallas Goedert, who took a large step in 2020.
So while a trade seems likely, nothing is ever easy with Eagle general manager Howie Roseman. The former “Executive of the Year” had previously requested a second round pick for Ertz before recently scaling those expectations back to a “mid rounder”.
Where the Cardinals fit into all of this is unknown at this time. A deal could of course be struck, but the team is already down a 2022 4th round pick after trading up for CB Marco Wilson last April.
While the hurdles in securing Ertz are significant, you can’t deny the potential impact a player the caliber of his could have on the Cardinal offense. When healthy, Ertz has been one of the most productive tight ends of the past decade.
To the people claiming Zach Ertz isn't worth pursing, have you seen the Cardinals history at the tight end position??!! Have you seen their current TE depth chart?!?!— Johnny Venerable (@JohnnyVenerable) May 19, 2021
Ertz the last 4 seasons:
2020 (hurt) - 335 yards, 1 TD
2019 - 916, 6 TDs
2018 - 1163, 8 TDs
2017 - 824, 8 TDs
Visualizing anything close to these numbers for an Arizona Cardinal tight end is startling. Yet too many on social media continue to claimer on about “Larry Fitzgerald potentially moving positions at age 38” or “we’re gonna run 10 personnel 100% of the time”.
“Ertz would be an expensive luxury, he isn’t needed.”
The amount of slander thrown at Ertz is jarring for a franchise that is still desperate for play-makers. While I am as excited as anyone for the arrival of second round pick Rondale Moore, the former Purdue product hasn’t played a full season of football since 2018.
A.J. Green is coming off his worst season as a pro, with many national analysts claiming his body is completely shot.
While I love what Christian Kirk brings to the table when he’s on, there’s no denying is inconsistencies and sudden disapearing acts late in seasons. If that was not the case, the team would not be so steadfast in attempting to find complimentary options at the position to Hopkins.
An insertion of Ertz immediately gives Kyler Murray an additional safety blanket down the middle of the field. He’s a proven star player with Arizona ties who I would imagine would be greatly in favor of playing out west for the laid back Kingsbury.
The cost could be steep, given the Cardinals presence in the NFC alongside Philadelphia. It’s been reported that AFC contenders such as Buffalo and the LA Chargers have also sniffed around Ertz’s market.
My best guess is that Arizona’s 2022 third round pick would be enough to entice Roseman and company enough to part ways with the former Stanford product. Maybe a deal could be done that also included former Eagle linebacker Jordan Hicks, who is also frustrated with his current franchise.
Regardless, the Cardinals have an opportunity to significantly upgrade their greatest position of need entering training camp. Scoffing at the asking price, albeite for a rental, in exchange for a player like Ertz is not something Keim can afford to do.
Not in the dreaded NFC West. Not in 2021.