To the surprise of nobody, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says he’ll return to the NFL for the 2013 season.
That seems like great news for Falcons fans.
But according to multiple media outlets, friends of Gonzalez say it will cost the Falcons a pretty penny: $7 million, and he doesn’t want to be required to attend training camp in July.
The latter isn’t a big deal — Gonzalez works out every day of his life and might be the most in-shape Falcon. He’s going to be in condition to put together another Pro Bowl-caliber season, whether or not he attends camp. If you’ve ever made the grueling drive to Flowery Branch, you’d be begging to not have to make that trip ever again, too.
Money, however, might be the bigger issue. In case you don’t recall, the Falcons had multiple holes in their defense during the 2012 season, and they need to replace Michael Turner with a decent running back to add that facet back into the offense. There are plenty of defensive free agents out there, but the Falcons need to have money to sign key pieces. If they spend $7 million on Gonzalez, that’s one player on defense that they won’t be able to bring in.
The Falcons clearly need to improve on defense, and if Gonzalez is the impediment to that improvement, then he needs to play for a smaller paycheck. He’s coming back to win a championship, and his actions should reflect that.
People seem to think he’s irreplaceable, but they’re only half-right about that. He’s an irreplaceable tight end, but he’s not an irreplaceable player. The Falcons could bring in a Reggie Bush-type running back who could make clutch receptions on third down, and the absence of Gonzalez would give players like Harry Douglas and Julio Jones a chance to make the catches Gonzalez made in past years.
It might sound like blasphemy, but if Gonzalez won’t budge on his asking price, the Falcons might want to draft a young tight end and move on.
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