When it looked like Sam LaPorta was facing some missed time with a left knee injury, there was an easy fit to propose and get behind for the Detroit Lions. In the wake of a couple other injuries at tight end, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Lions are signing Zach Ertz to their practice squad with the idea they'll elevate him to the active roster for the NFC Championship Game.
While LaPorta avoided the worst-case scenario with his knee injury, the Lions' have had their tight end depth chart thinned by injuries lately. James Mitchell is on IR due to a hand injury he suffered in practice, and on Sunday Brock Wright suffered a forearm injury that seems sure to sideline him for the remainder of the season. That leaves Anthony Firkser as the only other healthy tight end, besides LaPorta.
Detroit Lions take the easy opportunity to add Zach Ertz
Ertz, at 33 years old, is not the player he was at his peak. But he had a fairly productive start this season with the Arizona Cardinals, with six catches in three of the first four games. He was an easy trade candidate, then he asked for and was granted his release after playing seven games and recovering from a quad injury.
Ertz said he wanted to join a contender. The fit with the Lions was/is fortified by tight ends coach Steve Heiden, who had same job in Arizona from 2019-2022 and overlapped with Ertz after the veteran tight end was acquired from the Eagles in 2021.
Ertz will have a hard time learning the Lions' playbook enough to have a meaningful impact against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. But he has experience in multiple offensive systems to possibly shorten that learning curve, and one of his games with the Cardinals this season was against the 49ers with Steve Wilks running the defense. So there's insight there he could have, to go with his playoff experience (eight career postseason games) and Super Bowl ring with Philadelphia in 2017.
The opportunity to make any kind of impactful addition at this point in the season is rare, to say the least. But the Lions took the opportunity to add Ertz ahead of the franchise's new biggest game since..., and they also upgraded over what they had (even if they were healthy) behind LaPorta.