It’s not often you see an NFL team make a key signing before a conference title game, but that’s exactly what the Detroit Lions have done this week.
On Monday, NFL.com reported that the Lions were signing Zach Ertz to the practice squad. The three-time Pro Bowler started his season with the Cardinals, but he was cut in late November after he requested his release. Ertz has been a free agent since then, which is why he’s available to sign with the Lions.
Head coach Dan Campbell confirmed Wednesday that Ertz is at the Lions facility and in game shape (via ESPN). He’ll practice this week, per Campbell, and then “we’re gonna gauge this and see where he’s at.” Campbell was noncommital when asked if Ertz will be promoted to the active roster for the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s just a matter of, ‘Is this the week to use him?'” Campbell added (via WXYZ Detroit).
The Lions were in the market for some tight end help after losing Brock Wright to a forearm injury during Sunday’s 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wright, who is the No. 2 tight end on the roster, caught one big pass for 29 yards in the win. Not only is Wright banged up, but Sam LaPorta has also been dealing with an injury. The Lions’ rookie star hyperextended his left knee in Week 18 and he’s been wearing a brace ever since.
This is a situation where there doesn’t seem to be any downside for the Lions. If Ertz comes in, but isn’t elevated to the active roster, he’ll still bring a wealth of postseason experience with him. The veteran tight end has been to the playoffs a total of five times in his career, and that includes a 2017 season where he won a Super Bowl with the Eagles. During that postseason, Ertz caught 18 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.
During the 2023 season, Ertz played in seven games with the Cardinals before suffering a quad injury that led Arizona to place him on injured reserve. Before suffering the injury, Ertz caught 27 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown.
Although he only played in seven games for the Cardinals, one of his biggest games of the year actually came against the 49ers. Back in Week 4, Ertz caught six passes for 53 yards in a game that the 49ers would win 35-16. The Lions would likely be thrilled if they were able to get that kind of production out of Ertz during Sunday’s NFC title game. Ertz caught at least two passes in every game he played in this season, which means he should be able to contribute if he’s on the field.
This is a nice signing by a Lions team that’s aiming to get to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.