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Should the 49ers be interested in Zach Ertz if he clears waivers?

His contract suggests that Ertz will be a “stay away” unless he can be brought in for a more attractive contract.

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Former Texans and Cardinals defensive tackle JJ Watt broke the news that his former teammate and current Arizona tight end Zach Ertz has requested his release. The Cardinals granted Ertz’s release, which means the 3-time Pro Bowler is a free agent. According to Watt, Ertz wants to sign with a contender.

The 49ers have been on the hunt for a serviceable TE2 behind George Kittle since they realized they had a star in Kittle. The team has used Day 3 draft picks on the likes of Charlie Woerner and Kaden Smith. They’ve also attempted to go the veteran route in free agency, if you recall Jordan Reed.

Ertz is subject to waivers, so he won’t get to pick his next destination. Dallas Goedert is banged up. Plus, Philadelphia drafted Ertz out of Stanford. So, it’s easy to see why you’d think Ertz is going to either the Eagles or the 49ers, but both teams are near the bottom of the waiver order.

Then again, Ertz has three years remaining on his contract with a cap number in 2023 of $11.6 million. If a team were to claim Ertz, they’d have to pay a prorated amount of his contract.

Let’s act as if Ertz clears waivers. Should the 49ers be interested? Ertz has a laundry list of injuries in recent years. He tore his ACL in November 2022. So we’re just now a year removed from a season-ending injury. In October, Ertz had a quad injury after seven games that landed him on the injured reserve.

The lack of explosive plays he’s generated paired with one target over 20 yards this season tells me that injuries have zapped Ertz’s athleticism, and he’s no longer the tight end everybody remembers. That’s to be expected from a 33-year-old with an injury history.

Ertz may want to return to a familiar situation in Philadelphia. Either way, he’d be a wide receiver who could be effective underneath, but would also take away touches from George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk.