It is rare former perennial Pro Bowl offensive skill players that can still contribute and have something left in the tank become available this time of the year but that is exactly what happened when three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz requested and was granted his release from the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
The 11th-year veteran officially cleared waivers on Friday and while he is past his prime, Ertz can still make meaningful contributions and desires to join a contending team.
Enter the Baltimore Ravens who were dealt a significant blow on offense when they lost three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews to a potentially season-ending ankle injury in their Week 11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
They were one of four teams who were named as potential landing spots for the 33-year-old by Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz with the others being the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and his former team in the Philadelphia Eagles who are also dealing with an injury to his former understudy, Dallas Goedert.
Despite the loss of Andrews, the Ravens are far from depleted at tight end and have a pair of second-year players that they selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft who are gifted pass catchers. Isaiah Likely proved as a rookie last year that he is more than up to the task of filling in for Andrews by producing and providing some juice in the form of speed and athleticism. Charlie Kolar has made a significant impact as a blocker and is likely chomping at the bit to make the most of his targets when they come his way.
He's no Mark Andrews, but Isaiah Likely does do cartwheels!— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) November 27, 2023
Likely also adds some more elusiveness and RAC ability to the Ravens offense. pic.twitter.com/3vngQwfYkP
Against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12, Likely was very impressive in the first half recording all four of his receptions for a team-leading 40 receiving yards before the team stopped featuring him after halftime. Kolar has just one catch on the season which he recorded in the same game that Andrews went down that resulted in 13 receiving yards and a first down.
Ertz started the first six games of the season for Arizona before missing the last five and recorded 27 catches on 43 targets for 187 receiving yards and one touchdown.
The former second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Stanford spent the first eight and a half years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles where he was voted to three straight Pro Bowls and helped lead the team to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history in 2017.
After a down year in 2020, he was traded to the Cardinals in the middle of the 2021 season to make way for Goedert to have a more featured role. Had he been healthy ahead of this year’s midseason trade deadline, he might have been dealt again.
Instead, Ertz was just phased out so that second-year pro Trey McBride could take over as the starter in Arizona. The Ravens got a first-hand look at just how dynamic McBride can be when he recorded career-highs in targets (14) and receptions (10) and recorded his lone touchdown of the season against them in Week 8.
Even though Head Coach John Harbaugh gave Ravens fans a glimmer of hope that Andrews could possibly return to action this season if the team made a deep playoff run, either happening is not guaranteed. It wouldn’t hurt to add a hungry veteran player with championship experience and aspirations.
Some may view it as a luxury signing that might get in the way of the wide receivers from continuing to be more featured in the passing game. However, the Ravens’ young position group could benefit from Ertz’s presence and he’d be an inexpensive injury policy in case someone else gets hurt or if Andrews doesn’t return.