Tony Gonzalez is reportedly wavering as he dwells on his retirement decision, with the odds of his fade into the glistening football sunset slowly decreasing from 95 percent, to possibly 50 percent. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff likes those odds. Fantasy owners like those odds. Everyone likes those odds.
Embarking on the everlasting journey into the retirement abyss must be difficult for Gonzo when at the age of 36 this past season (he’ll turn 37 in a week), he recorded his best receiving yardage total (930 yards) and yards per game (58.1) since 2008. Even more impressively, he caught 93 passes after averaging 77.7 over the previous three seasons.
Gonzo is a pretty smart dude, and he’ll be just fine during his post-football life while pursuing other fulfilling endeavors. He’ll likely write at least nine more vegan diet books in an effort to help you look and feel like, um, Tony Gonzalez.
But dammit, those numbers. And this Falcons team with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, etc. They were so close to the Super Bowl. Maybe just one more year Tony? Please?
Ed Werder — he of the Brett Favre chasing fame — reported earlier this afternoon that the odds of Gonzalez retiring may be decreasing even further.
Source says Tony Gonzalez wavering on retirement. A player close to him: “I think if the circumstances are right, Tony will come back.”
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) February 19, 2013
What exactly those circumstances are is unclear, though typically circumstances around the NFL in February and March involve some sort of monetary remedy. Gonzalez was paid a paltry sum of $3.9 million this year, which is especially slim considering he finished third in tight end receiving yards. Sure, he’s old, but those totals still warrant a pay raise.
Dimitroff has said he thinks there’s a 50-50 chance the Hall of Fame tight end will return, and although he’s not rushing such a massive decision, an answer soon would be nice, thanks.
He really, really wants Gonzalez back. Here’s Dimitroff’s begging (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):
“We have evolved and have been quite outspoken about our interest in having Tony back,” Dimitroff said. “He’s still a very adept and athletic tight end in our minds and can continue to help us win a lot of games. But again, it’s ultimately up to Tony to make that decision for himself and his family.”
Need a towel, Tony?
Let’s entertain the best possible scenario for the Falcons (and again, for Gonzalez keeper league owners). Simply put, he returns and signs a surely lucrative one-year contract with Atlanta, and everyone remains merry for one year. OK, great, but then a year from now we’ll begin to have the same discussion, as Gonzalez’s retirement will be a certainty. Knowing that, and knowing that right now there’s the comfort of a one-year window to groom a successor, drafting a tight end now regardless of Gonzo’s decision feels so right.
The Falcons hold the 30th overall pick, which fits in line nicely with the projected draft value of the two elite tight ends expected to come off the board in the first round: Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, and Stanford’s Zach Ertz. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper — the dueling ESPN draft experts also known as the single person Todd KipShay (Mel McPer?) — had both of those names slotted into the Falcons’ late-round perch.
First, Kiper gave the Falcons Eifert, saying this:
If all the begging pays off, and Tony Gonzalez does in fact return in 2013, the presence of Eifert would still be valuable. If Gonzalez is back, you add a player that can contribute immediately, who can be moved all over the formation and along with Julio Jones and Roddy White, cause matchup problems for defenses in multiple ways. If Gonzalez does come back, Eifert gets a year to learn from the master, and contribute plenty in the mean time. The Falcons do need help with the pass rush, but it would be hard to pass on Eifert at this spot with the presumption that Gonzalez is headed for retirement.
But McShay favors Ertz:
He doesn’t have elite speed, but he is a good athlete who knows how to separate from coverage, and can make tough catches over his head and in traffic.
Defensive end is another primary need, with both Sports Illustrated‘s Don Banks and CBS’ Rob Rang mocking Alex Okafor to Atlanta. Fair enough, gentlemen, as we’re discussing a pass rush that’s downright feeble beyond John Abraham, a weakness exposed during the playoffs when Abraham was hobbled, and both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick scrambled at will.
That direction will be much easier to justify if Gonzalez stays. But even if that happens, by taking a defensive end Dimitroff will be disregarding a strong tight end class this year that will likely include two first rounders and possibly a third (San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar), and neglecting a significant future need at a central offensive position if it isn’t addressed through free agency (Martellus Bennett, Fred Davis, and Dustin Keller are the top options available).
So many pieces need to fall into place. And right now, the first domino is in Gonzalez’s hands.