Zach Ertz is right where he wants to be, and he’s going to be there for a long time.
On Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that Zach has signed a five-year contract extension, which will keep him in Philly for at least the next six years. At the press conference announcing the signing, Zach pinpointed three groups of people that had a significant influence on him being where he is today: the Eagles’ ownership group, those closest to him: his family and friends, and of course his teammates.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Howie and Mr. Lurie. They had faith in me three years ago to bring me to Philadelphia and I’m extremely thankful for that and I’m extremely thankful for them allowing me to be here for six more years. Secondly, I’d like to thank my family. They’ve been with me through the highs and the lows and I definitely would not be here without all of their continued support throughout the years,” Zach said. “I’d also like to thank all my mentors, my coaches, all the trainers in Philadelphia and back at Stanford, my friends and my teammates. One of the things I pride myself on is being a great teammate and never letting my teammates down, and all of those guys have continued to push me in ways and reach levels that I didn’t think I could reach.”
Staying in one city for his entire career is important to No. 86. In his remarks about remaining in Philadelphia, he used Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard and Philly native Kobe Bryant and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten as two examples of lifers with the same team.
“One of the things when I look over all the athletes that I idolize — Kobe Bryant, Jason Witten are two of the athletes that I’ve looked up to since I was a young kid — those two guys stayed in their cities throughout their entire careers. That’s kind of the legacy that I want to leave here in Philadelphia,” Zach said. “When people think about great tight ends in Philly, I want to be the guy that they think of. I look at[Brian] Dawkins, I look at Donovan [McNabb], I look at [Brian] Westbrook and these are guys that left lasting legacies in this city. Those are the guys that I want to be mentioned with.”
In just three seasons with the Eagles so far, Zach is already on his way up the charts, having made consistent improvements throughout his career. He finished this season with career highs in targets (112), receptions (75) and receiving yards (853). No. 86 also made major strides in his blocking, which showed in his playing time. His 788 offensive snaps were a team-high for tight ends and the second most of all Philly skill players.
The 788 snaps were also a career-high and a 41.5 percent increase from his previous career high of 557 set in 2014. As Zach explained, Philly’s former head coach Chip Kelly was instrumental in that change—and he took the time to thank Kelly—along with Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle—for all they did for him during the most important years of his career.
“Numbers are one thing but I also think Chip pushed me in ways that aren’t reflected in numbers. I think my blocking has progressed these three years to levels that I probably wouldn’t have reached if it weren’t for him and coach Peelle,” Zach revealed. “Those guys have pushed me to be a player that I definitely wasn’t when I first came into the league both on the field and off the field. I owe a lot of my success and a lot of my future success to coach Kelly.”
While Zach continues on to the next chapter of his career, the Eagles will do the same as a franchise. On Jan. 18, the Eagles announced the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator—and former Eagles assistant—Doug Pederson as the team’s next head coach. Before signing his extension, Zach spoke with Pederson about the future of the franchise, and came away from that discussion with his new coach thrilled about what’s to come in the future for Philadelphia.
“I’m excited to be in this system. I talked to Doug briefly today, it was primarily about Philadelphia and being back in this city. I’m extremely excited to be in his offense,” Zach told the media. “I think the things that him and [Kansas City Chiefs Head] Coach [Andy] Reid have done with tight ends in the past is something that I’m really looking forward to.”
No. 86 ended his 2015 campaign on a tear the last four weeks of the season. In weeks 14-17, Zach hauled in a total of 35 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 16 against the Washington Redskins, he recorded 13 catches for a then-career-high 122 yards. That personal record was short-lived, though. The following week he tallied 152 receiving yards, thanks in large part to the longest catch of his career, a 60-yard reception, as the Eagles triumphed over the New York Giants in the regular season finale.
But unfortunately, the Eagles were just 2-2 in those final four games, and the 122-yard day came in a loss to Washington that knocked Philly from playoff contention.
While Zach hopes for many more 100-plus yard days, he places a greater emphasis on those big days wants fueling the Eagles to more victories in the years to come.
“The last four weeks were great, but at the same time that’s what I expect out of myself each and every week. Those eight-catch games are something that I expect out of myself. It’s nothing out of the ordinary in my eyes,” ZE said. “But, the thing that didn’t come with those last four weeks was [wins]. We were 2-2. That kind of stuck out to me. I go for wins, I don’t go for the stats and that’s all I care about. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be successful. I think that worked for me last year.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that most of Zach’s success came late in the season. Injuries robbed Zach and Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford of valuable time building a rapport together during the offseason. As a result, the duo got off to a slow start and the necessary connection between a quarterback and his tight end wasn’t there early in the season. Then, just as they began to hit their stride around midseason, both players suffered injuries. But when they both returned, the results were spectacular. Now, Zach hopes that Bradford, a free agent to be, will return and rejoin him in Philadelphia.
“I would love that. I know a lot of guys would love to have Sam back, Jordan [Matthews] and myself in particular. We were rewarded with Sam playing quarterback,” Zach told reporters. “At the same time, we’re very confident in Doug and Howie and Mr. Lurie to decide who’s going to be the best person to play quarterback.”
While the quarterback position is still a bit of an unknown, the Eagles know they’ll have two reliable tight ends. On Tuesday, Zach’s veteran teammate Brent Celek also re-signed with the team, and extension that will keep the nine-year vet in Philadelphia through the 2018 season. Celek has been a great leader in the locker room for the Eagles and a tremendous mentor for No. 86 over the last three years. Now Zach is ready to take the next step in his career with Celek next to him in the tight end room.
ZE’s new deal made him the fourth-highest paid tight end in average salary behind Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham, Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski—who are all older than Zach. However, ZE’s goal is not to be in the top five but to be the best tight end in the game.
“My goal definitely isn’t to be top five, it’s to be the best in the league. That’s something I’m going to take pride in to accomplish. I don’t play this game to be an average tight end, I play this game to be the best tight end I can possibly be and win as many football games as I possibly can,” Zach told reporters. “I’m going to push myself to accomplish those goals over the next five years.”
He added a promise that his new contract will not stop him from continuing to improve and grow as a player in an effort to reach his full potential and take the Eagles to even greater heights.
“I’m never going to be satisfied with where I am as a player whether it’s the receiving or the blocking aspect of it. I think I’m going to continue to push myself to improve each and every one of those aspects,” he said. “I’m really excited to work with coach Pederson, a new mind, a new voice and I think that’s going to take me a long way. But at the same time, I think that I have to be more consistent as well. Growing up, I never would’ve expected to be the face of a franchise, but at the same time, I think the work that I’ve put in has put me in this situation. Being the face of Philadelphia comes with a lot of responsibility. This franchise has been successful for a lot of years. I think I’m going to put pressure on myself and my teammates to be the best players that they can be.”
Even being the game’s best tight end wouldn’t be enough for No. 86 if it doesn’t come alongside success for the Eagles franchise as a whole. Zach’s stated goal is simple: he wants to bring titles home to Philly.
“Let’s look at the [Carolina] Panthers. They were 7-8-1 last year. And now, they’re 15-1 and going to be playing in two weeks in Santa Clara. A lot of stuff has to go rightWe’ve got to build from the ground up. I want to be here for the next five years. I want to win Super Bowls here and I want other guys to be here. Start making sure we have some of the other young guys as well that we can build around. And then, we’ve got to find the right guys that go with us,” he told the media. “To the fans of Philadelphia, we haven’t brought home a Super Bowl to Philadelphia yet, but I’m not going to rest until we do and win as many as we possibly can here. They’re the best fans in the world and they push us each and every day to be the best that we can be.”
- Zach Ertz inks 5-year extension with Eagles worth $42.5 million (ESPN, Jan. 25, 2016)
- Eagles ink Zach Ertz to a five-year $42 million extension (NFL, Jan. 25, 2016)
- Eagles sign TE Brent Celek to three-year extension (NFL, Jan. 26, 2016)
- Eagles extend tight end Zach Ertz, who has lofty goals (Philadelphia Daily News, Jan. 26, 2016)
- Eagles sign Zach Ertz to 5-year extension (NJ.com, Jan. 26, 2016)
- Quotes: Tight End Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles, Jan. 25, 2016)
- Ertz far from satisfied in his development (Philadelphia Eagles, Jan. 25, 2016)