The opportunity to add a recognizable name is rare at this point in an NFL season. But on Monday, with injuries thinning their tight end ranks behind Sam LaPorta, the Detroit Lions signed three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz to their practice squad.
With James Mitchell on IR and Brock Wright looking sure to be out for the NFC Championship Game, Anthony Firkser is only other healthy tight end for the Lions besides LaPorta.
The obvious idea is to be able to elevate Ertz to the active roster for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers, and the Super Bowl should they get there. Ertz could learn the Lions' offense fairly quickly, at least enough to be able to function and be helpful for a chunk of snaps, rooted in his experience in multiple offensive systems. He also worked with Lions' tight ends coach Steve Heiden in Arizona.
The rationale for the Lions to add Ertz goes beyond his name recognition. They needed a healthy body at tight end, and Ertz stood above the crowd among all available options. He had been waiting for an opportunity to join a contender, and it came now.
Dan Campbell explains why the Lions signed Zach Ertz
During his appearance on 97.1 The Ticket Tuesday, Campbell explained the move to add Ertz.
"He's played a lot of football. And there's things that he does well. It's just a matter of we we wanted to get him here to see if it's something that we can use in this game," said Campbell. "Do we carry these three tight ends, he being one of them, or not? There's no guarantee that he goes right now. It's just a matter of, as we start to really look at San Francisco, what do we think our best matchups are and can we use him?"
"I don't think that's something that was the first thing we thought of," Campbell noted, discussing Ertz's vast experience. "But now, look, being in playoff games, being in big environments, that never hurts. But no, it's more about the fact he's played really good football for a long time. And there's things he does well."
One of the games Ertz played for the Arizona Cardinals this season, before an injury, recovering from it and asking for his release, was against the 49ers. So he may have some basic insights about their defense, even if things have changed since.
As "kick the tires" options go, Ertz is a pretty good one to be able to add for the Lions. Campbell basically confirmed that, and Ertz was surely made no promises beyond getting a chance in practice this week.