The Atlanta Falcons and their fans got the news that they have been desperately hoping for since the 2012 season ended, as future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez announced today that he will in fact return to the team for the 2013 season, which will be his fifth as a Falcon and seventeenth overall.
Reports had been circulating over the last few days that Gonzalez was open to a return to the team, saying in part that the thirty-seven year old wanted to return if he was given the right deal (some speculate around $7 million) and was subjected to an abbreviated training camp. Although the contract has not been finalized and terms have not been disclosed, Gonzalez let fans know that the story, which was first broken by FoxSports’ Jay Glazer, was true, releasing this statement on his Facebook:
Fans and teammates alike had voiced their beliefs that Gonzalez, who reeled in 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012, should in fact suit up again in 2013, but it seemed for a while as if their requests had fallen on deaf ears. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff had maintained during the NFL Combine that he felt Gonzalez’s return sat at a 50% possibility, which means that it is highly possible that Dimitroff, head coach Mike Smith, and several other members of the team reached out to arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history to convince him to make a return.
The decision by Gonzalez this early in NFL free agency mirrors a baseball team hitting a grand slam in Game 7 of the World Series as far as the magnitude of the move is concerned. Because Gonzalez is back in the lineup for 2013, the Falcons no longer need to look at tight end for 2013, which means that the time and effort the team may have been prepared to use to pursue certain tight end prospects–either through free agency or in the NFL Draft–can be spent elsewhere. Tony’s return also could be just what the team needs to lure in other talented veterans (like Rams RB Steven Jackson), as it makes it clear that this offense is more than capable of making a run to the Super Bowl.
Gonzalez’s return lessens the pressure on the team as far as free agency is concerned
With Gonzo no longer gone, the question now is what is next for the Falcons as far as free agency is concerned. Although the free agency period is not set to start until 4:00 p.m. today, it seems like a safe assumption that this move will be the biggest for the Dirty Birds at least for today; however, other players may also be reeled in to bulk the team up. While there have been no indications on what will and will not happen today, Falcons fans need to keep an eye out for other moves, particularly any considering the aforementioned Jackson.
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