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NFL rumors: Would the Falcons consider trading for Zach Ertz?

It’s unlikely, but it’s not hard to connect a few dots to understand why Atlanta might at least pick up the phone.

Washington Football Team v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Phladelphia Eagles are fielding trade calls for longtime tight end Zach Ertz. In any other year with any other coaching staff, I would likely not even bother to write about the possibility of the Atlanta Falcons being one of those teams, because it would be both farfetched and likely a poor use of their draft selections.

It may still be the latter, but Atlanta’s situation this offseason made me actually consider whether they are one of the teams calling 1-800-BUY-ERTZ. There’s a few factors that make Michael Silver’s report relevant to the Falcons, even if I do have to say I think they’re unlikely to be the team that actually pulls off a deal.

In no particular order:

  • Zach Ertz is going to be cheaper than he would’ve been previously, thanks to injuries that wiped out a good chunk of his 2020 season. Ertz is 30 years old, coming off an 11 game season that featured his weakest production since he was a rookie, and may not be part of a rebuilding Philadelphia team’s long-term plans. All of that and his contract—more on that in a moment—could conspire to make Philly willing to move him for a late Day 2 or a couple of Day 3 selections.
  • Arthur Smith loves tight ends. Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser were #3 and #4 on the Titans in targets, Smith played 70% of the offensive snaps, and Geoff Swaim and Firkser each played 32% of the snaps. That Tennessee offense found plenty of use for the position, and adding Ertz would give Smith a potent group with Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham and the new addition. That plus an excellent trio of pass catchers would help offset any kind of decline we might see from Matt Ryan this year.
  • Justin Peelle is the new tight ends coach. Peelle was the assistant tight ends coach in Philadelphia when Ertz was drafted and has been the tight ends coach since 2015, meaning Ertz has spent his entire career working with the former Falcons tight end. Peelle’s inclusion on this staff would probably be a strong lure for Ertz, if he had any say in the matter, and would probably strengthen the chances that a team shopping for a second starting-caliber tight end would check in on Philadelphia’s situation.

What’s working against a trade are two factors: Compensation and cap space. The former is an issue if Philadelphia winds up with a lot of attractive offers, because the Falcons are not in a great position to be tossing a 2nd or really even 3rd round pick for a veteran coming off an injury-marred year. The latter is an issue period because the Falcons simply do not have a lot of space to work with, meaning Ertz would have to be amenable to re-structuring his deal to give Atlanta some immediate relief in exchange for some security down the line. Both of these are significant obstacles, especially for a Falcons team with so many holes to fill and so little money with which to do so.

Ultimately, the pieces fit together pretty easily here, but Atlanta’s 2021 challenges still make a deal pretty unlikely. It’s a story worth monitoring just in case the Falcons have a hankering for a very good veteran tight end to make Arthur Smith happy, but in the end I do expect Atlanta to sign someone more affordable and not flip one of their valuable draft picks for Ertz.