The New Orleans Saints lost tight ends Adam Trautman (foot) and Nick Vannett (knee) to injury in Monday’s pre-season win over Jacksonville.
Both players had an MRI on Tuesday. The extent of Trautman’s injury is not yet known, while Vannett will be missing 2-4 weeks.
Trautman and Vannett’s losses are big blows to a position that was already extremely thin and unproven for New Orleans. Former undrafted Juwan Johnson, Ethan Wolf and Garrett Griffin are the last tight players remaining on the roster.
Johnson had an impressive camp after being converted from wide receiver as a rookie last season. It seems to have a place on the sewn list.
Griffin has spent a lot of time on the team’s training squad since 2016. He and Wolf are a good size, but offer few threats down the field.
If Trautman or Vannett are short on time, the Saints will need to add talent to the post. Trading for Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz could be an option.
Ertz, 30, is entering the final year of his contract and is reportedly capped at $ 8.5 million. He’s just won a record 36 receptions for 335 yards and one touchdown in 11 games for an Eagles team that has been appalling in 2020.
Ertz is only one year away from three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Prior to last season, he had played in 113 of a possible 119 for Philadelphia, including the playoffs.
Ertz has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends throughout his eight-year career. He has 561 career receptions for 6,078 yards and 36 touchdowns, hitting 67% of his targets.
From 2015 to 2019, Ertz averaged 86 receptions for 905 yards per year with 28 touchdowns. His best year was 2018, when his 116 receptions were second behind the Saints Michael Thomas for the league lead and his 1,116 receiving yards were second among tight ends.
Ertz has led the Eagles in receiving and receiving yards for three of the past four seasons, including their 2017 Super Bowl championship team. His 6’5 ”, 250lb frame is a lag for most. defensive backs, but he has the athleticism to outrun most linebackers.
More than just a spreader in a tight body, Ertz is also a willing ascender for the running game. He can seal the advantage against defensive ends and get adequate thrust in short distance situations.
Make no mistake, Ertz’s main value is in the passing game. He’s one of the league’s most consistent targets since entering the NFL as a second-round pick at Stanford in 2013. His exceptional course accuracy and receiving skills make him capable of being the number one threat. reception of a team.
New Orleans is extremely thin at both the wide receiver and the near end. Second-year WR Marquez Callaway looks like an emerging star, but the Saints could do without All-Pro WR Michael Thomas until mid-season after ankle surgery. The rest of the unit, aside from explosive kick returner Deonte Harris, has either been unproven or inconsistent.
Ertz could provide new Saints quarterback Jameis Winston with an elite receiving threat and valuable safety cover in the middle zones and near the goal line.
The market for free agents is extremely narrow at the tight end. Veteran Virgil Green is a longtime starter, but above all a valuable blocker. A long history of injury has robbed Tyler Eifert of his game-breaking potential. Trey Burton is an underrated receptor and willful blocker, but not a long-term response.
New Orleans looks just as likely to wait until the last round of league cups to add another tight end. Or, maybe they make a “splash move” and trade for TE Zach Ertz, a move that would improve the overall offense.
Follow Bob Rose on Facebook and Twitter @ bobbyr2613.