clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cardinals Tight End Outlook: Zach Ertz is the NFL’s top free agent tight end of 2022

Zach Ertz historical 2021 season as a Cardinal tight end; Maxx Williams breakout year prior to injury

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals tight ends of the 2021 season have a combined 777 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 76 receptions and 108 targets.

Though the production in itself is not very impressive, most of those statistics came from one player and that was Zach Ertz.

Ertz, who will be entering his 10th season in the NFL, led the Cardinals’ tight end group with 56 catches, 574 receiving yards, and three touchdown in 11 games with Arizona after being traded from the Philadelphia Eagles prior to Week 6.

His receiving yards total was the most by a Cardinals tight end since Doug Marsh, who had 608 yards in 1983. His target total was most by a Cardinals tight end since Freddie Jones, who had 89 in 2003. And his reception total is tied with Hall of Famer Jackie Smith for the most in a single season by a tight end in franchise history.

Indianapolis Colts v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

When DeAndre Hopkins missed a few games due to hamstring injury and five more games due to a torn MCL, Ertz became Kyler Murray’s go-to target as he led all Cardinals pass catches with 43 targets in the final four regular season games.

Pro Football Focus projects Zach Ertz receiving a two-year $20 million contract with $12.5 million guaranteed in free agency.

According to Matt Verderame, a National NFL Reporter on FanSided, the Cardinals and Zach Ertz have mutual interest in a reunion. Ertz will garner a lot of outside interest in free agency but expect the Cardinals to make a strong offer to keep him around.

The reason why Arizona went out and acquired Ertz in the first place was because their previous tight end Maxx Williams suffered a season-ending ACL year in Week 5.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Williams was actually on track in setting career highs across the board with 16 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown through the first five games of 2021 prior to the injury. He was off to the best start of any season in his seven-year career.

Ertz is an established athletic pass-catching threat as a three-time Pro Bowler but Maxx Williams might just be the most well-rounded tight end of the two as a reliable pass catcher and one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL when healthy. I put a huge emphasis on health because Williams has questionable durability having missed 19 regular season games over the last two years.

Without question, the Cardinals want to retain both of their veteran tight ends. Williams turns 28 in April and Ertz turns 32 in November. Ideally, Arizona would like to keep both but it all depends on their asking price. Pro Football Focus projects Williams to receive a three-year $18.75 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.

His injury will hurt the dollar amount in contract negotiations a bit but Williams has proven to be a quality football player when on the football field.

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Darrell Daniels and Demetrius Harris are primarily special teams player and both are also impending unrestricted free agents. The four tight ends that are under contract on futures contracts are Alex Ellis, David Wells, Deon Yelder, and International Player Pathway tight end Bernhard Seikovits.

Some intriguing free agent options include O.J. Howard, Hayden Hurst, Blake Jarwin, Robert Tonyan, and C.J. Uzomah.

The 2022 draft class has plenty of intriguing options in prospects such as Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Washington’s Cade Otton, Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert, Virginia’s Jelani Woods, and Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer.

Will the Cardinals be able to re-sign Zach Ertz and/or Maxx Williams?

Is the tight end position going to be addressed via the NFL Draft?

No one knows what a tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams looks like but I am all aboard that train if it has not left the station. The Cardinals’ tight end group could look completely different with four of their top tight ends scheduled to hit the open market on March 16th in free agency.