The Baltimore Ravens sorely missed the presence of Hayden Hurst on offense in 2020. The former first-round pick thrived and was a key cog in both the running and passing game as the No. 3 tight end behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle during their historic 2019 regular season.
General Manager Eric DeCosta wasn’t able to find a proper replacement for Hurst after trading him to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for the second-round pick, which was then used to draft running back J.K. Dobbins.
Adding another pass-catching threat at tight end should be one of the team’s top priorities this offseason. A possible avenue they could explore is acquiring veteran Zach Ertz, who is reportedly on his way out of Philadelphia.
The three-time Pro Bowler has spent his entire career with the Eagles but after a down year in 2020, coupled with the emergence of Dallas Goedert, he is expected to be either cut or traded by or before the beginning of the new league year on March 17. The Ravens prefer and have historically been among the league’s best at scooping up veteran salary cap casualties and would likely be a projected landing spot for Ertz if he were to have his contract terminated.
However, Ertz’s trade market has begun to heat up recently and some reports have surfaced that he might even be shipped away in a trade package with QB Carson Wentz, who the team is also looking to move on from. Two teams rumored to be interested in trading for Ertz include the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts, who are also reportedly interested in trading for Wentz.
Prior to his worst statistical season in 2020, where he missed time with an ankle injury and recorded career lows in receiving yards (335), receptions (36, tied with lowest since his rookie year), and touchdowns (one), Ertz made three straight Pro Bowls. He was viewed as on of the top players at his position and had posted back-to-back seasons of over 900 yards receiving, including a career-high 1,163 mark in 2018.
While last season was far from his best and will likely depress some of his value if he were to make it to the open market, his struggles in 2020 were a byproduct of the overall dysfunction of the Eagles’ offense as a whole and the inconsistent quarterback play — more than it was an indictment of his ability to still perform at a high level or an indicator that he is in decline.
If DeCosta wants to address an underrated yet vital need on the roster with a proven commodity that has dominated at the pro level, he might have to throw his hat in the running for a trade to ensure that he doesn’t have to get in a bidding war if Ertz were to get released.
Any potential trade to acquire his services would likely be contingent on a short-term contract extension to lower his 2021 cap hit of $12.4 million, similar to what was done in the trade for five-time Pro Bowl DE Calais Campbell on the eve of free agency last offseason.
My personal preference for the team would be to explore neither avenue, address the position on day two or three of the draft in April and allocate more resources into an offensive line that will likely have two or maybe even three new starters by the time next season rolls around.