NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons

Tony Gonzalez may yet be returning for a 17th NFL season. The tight end has reportedly told his agent, Tom Condon, to talk to the Atlanta Falcons about signing a new deal. According to USA Today, an anonymous source said that a new deal is starting to be worked on. The notion of Gonzalez returning first surfaced from a conversation he had with Warren Moon in which Moon told USA Today that he thought Gonzalez would return in the hopes of winning a Super Bowl.

 

 

Jay Glazer has also now confirmed that Gonzalez has officially informed the team that he will indeed be returning to the Falcons for another season. The two sides are reportedly working on a deal as we speak before the market opens at 4 pm. The Falcons were waiting on Gonzalez’s decision before the opening of the free agent market and his decision gives the Falcons one less position to focus on.

Gonzalez also explained his decision:

“I was done, I thought I had my mind made up. This whole year I knew it would be my last but the way our final game ended and talking to the guys in the locker room, in the end it was too difficult of a way for me to step away from the game.”

And so the Gonzo retirement tour begins anew, except next December/January (February?) we’ll care a little less, with all the emotion drained. We all love you, Tony, but we have to let go eventually.

Without getting too deep into undergrad-level psychology (athlete likes sport, therefore athlete must play sport forever and ever), the motivation for Gonzalez to return is rooted in the Falcons coming so agonizingly close to playing for a championship after losing to the 49ers by just four points in the NFC Championship game. For an elite athlete like Gonzalez, walking away after 16 years is difficult under any circumstance. But doing it when the Falcons are bringing back a near identical team minus Michael Turner (addition by subtraction), John Abraham, and maybe Brent Grimes? That’s too much teasing.

When only one of those subtractions is on the offensive side of the ball (the most irrelevant one too), the urge to play for one more season surely became unbearable. There’s been no decline with Gonzalez, and in fact his 930 receiving yards in 2012 were the most he’s ever had as a Falcons, and therefore also the most he’s had since 2008. And he’s 36, and statistically he’s been a top 10 tight end in all but two of his 16 seasons, yet unbelievable he was the 10th TE off the board in most redraft fantasy formats. We didn’t believe.

In drafts next August Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham remain the sole occupants of the top tier of the tight end position, but Gonzalez is only narrowly behind. With his eight scores this past season, he was the target for a quarter of Matt Ryan’s touchdown passes, which led to 141 fantasy points. That’s an average of 8.8 points per game, which is just slightly behind Graham (9.5). Indeed, the gap between the top three tight ends is narrow, but you’ll often pay much more for Gronk and Graham (often an early second round pick, or sometimes even a late first rounder), than you will for Gonzalez, who will likely come off the board at least a round later.

That makes targeting wide receivers and running backs and waiting on Gonzalez sound like a pretty profitable strategy.