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 Post subject: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:02 pm 
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http://falcfans.com/how-do-you-replace-gonzalez-6992

How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
January 30th, 2013
Aaron Freeman

While there still remains a chance that Tony Gonzalez opts to give it one more year before ending his illustrious career, it is a very small chance. And frankly the powers that be in Atlanta cannot operate under that assumption that he returns. Even if Gonzo decides that 2013 will be his last season in the league, the Falcons need to start looking for a contingency plan for when he does hang it up.

When the Falcons acquired Gonzalez in 2009, they were aware of the possibility that could have been his last season. And the following spring with one of the deepest tight end classes in draft history coming out, it made sense to try and find his eventual replacement then. But instead the Falcons opted to go with a pair of undrafted free agents in Michael Palmer and Colin Peek. Palmer made the roster and still remains a Falcon. And while a valuable reserve, he’s never emerged as a prime candidate to supplant Gonzalez. And for each of the following two drafts, most assumed the Falcons would try and bring in Gonzalez’s heir apparent. The Falcons did not do so.

So even if the Falcons receive word from Gonzalez in the next month or so that he wants to come back to Atlanta, the Falcons can’t escape this off-season without having a succession plan. Which of course begs the question of what exactly that plan should be.

How do you replace Tony Gonzalez? Well, you can’t really. He’s inarguably the greatest tight end in NFL history, and even though his skills have diminished over the course of his 16-year NFL career, he’s still one of the premier receiving tight ends in the league. He’s coming off his best season since joining the Falcons, thus the expectation that someone else can come in and allow a smooth transition is foolhardy at best.

But the Falcons can do certain things to ease the blow of Gonzalez’s eventual departure. This off-season features a number of solid free agent tight ends. Martellus Bennett (Giants), Jared Cook (Titans), Fred Davis (Redskins), and Dustin Keller (Jets) top the list of potential free agent candidates. All have their concerns however. Bennett is coming off a breakout year with the Giants, but he was marginal in Dallas, and the Giants offense has historically made average tight ends look pretty good (see Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss). So there is a buyer’s beware there. Cook has out of this world physical skills, but has never been a consistent threat in Tennessee’s offense over the years. Davis is coming off an Achilles tear and has some off-field issues. Keller had a 2012 season shortened by an ankle injury and while his production has been solid over the years in New York, he’s never really been described as an impact player. There are a number of red flags with these players that suggest long-term investing from the Falcons is not ideal.

More than likely, that means the Falcon will be looking at draft prospects. While this year’s tight end class does not feature a large number of future NFL superstars at tight end, there are a number of good tight ends that have the potential to be solid, productive starters at the next level. The group is highlighted by Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) and Zach Ertz (Stanford), both of whom are considered possibilities in the latter part of the first round. The group got enhanced by the introduction of a number of juniors in Florida’s Jordan Reed, Michigan State’s Dion Sims, San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar, and Stanford’s Levine Toilolo.

Perhaps the best strategy for the Falcons given the lack of a clear-cut option may be to double up at this position. Similar to what the Colts did a year ago by adding Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in Rounds 2 and 3, and the Ravens did years ago with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta in the 2010 draft class. There may not be a single player that can slide in and take Gonzo’s spot, but a pair of guys double the chances that at least one emerges into a competent starter.

With teams like New England, Baltimore, and San Francisco featuring a lot of two-tight end sets, it’s become even more popular for offenses to feature a pair of guys. In fact, the Falcons are one of only three teams this past year to not have a second tight end that played in at least 200 snaps this year (Jacksonville and Oakland are the others).

Given the Falcons need to improve their running game, getting two tight ends makes a lot of sense. One of the reasons why teams like New England, Baltimore, and San Francisco are so good working with a pair of tight ends is due to the fact that it is a formation that you can run and pass out of easily. One of the few weaknesses of Gonzalez was his inconsistency as a blocker. It’s likely that the Falcons will be able to get better there with whomever replaces him. Having a pair of tight ends, particularly ones that can both catch and block gives the offense versatility and makes them harder to defend.

Similar to the Colts and Ravens, if the Falcons adopt this strategy it also frees them up to use their first round pick elsewhere on a more pressing position, such as looking for a pass rusher. If you’re intention is to get two good players as opposed to one great player, then you can wait until the second or third day of the draft to address the tight end position.

In a perfect world, these pair of tight ends will complement each other. One will likely be more of the receiver and H-back player. Ideally, this player will be able to bring some explosive element to the Falcons offense, something that Gonzalez lacked during his Falcon tenure. The other will be more of an inline guy that can be more of the blocker, but also help move the chains on third down with the short and intermediate passing game that Gonzalez shined in. Neither will have to be great redzone targets as it is likely that Julio Jones and Roddy White will be asked to pick up most of that slack. But if they can add value there, then that certainly won’t be a negative.

In the end, it’s highly likely that the Falcons will see a significant downgrade at this position going into 2013. There was arguably no better option in the NFL on third downs and in the redzone than Gonzalez over recent seasons. And even if players like Jones and White step up, along with Harry Douglas, you can’t expect there not to be some drop-off in their production in those areas next year. The best the Falcons can hope is that whomever they bring in, can help minimize the issue. The Falcons have missed opportunities over the past four years to be proactive about this issue, but more than likely should correct that mistake this off-season.

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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:55 pm 
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You know I'm annoyed they haven't had 2 TE sets the last few years as I love the versatility from those (and think this year with a seam stretching TE we would have been quite formidable.)

That said, I don't think you can replace Gonzales with a TE, or even two (though two is a start). You have to replace his touches with a primary back who can catch, a 3rd WR who is a more conistent threat, and 2 TEs. I think with that, you can see no dropoff, and probably an increase in offense.

But if you're looking for one guy to do it, you're going to be very disappointed.


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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:06 am 
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http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap100000 ... ez-to-stay

By Kareem Copeland
Around the League Writer

Ready for a shocker? The Atlanta Falcons don't want Tony Gonzalez to retire.

The sky is also blue and Halle Berry is a looker.

Of course the organization would want a matchup nightmare that caught 93 balls for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. It's almost unfair to have Gonzalez working the middle while

Gonzalez said he's 95 percent sure that he will retire after 16 seasons, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff has made sure the tight end knows he's wanted.

"A guy who is 36 catching 100 plus balls (including the postseason), it just doesn't seem like it's time for him to move on," Dimitroff told ESPN at the Super Bowl media center. "Tony's a man and he's got to make his own decision. Suffice it to say that it's not going to be an easy decision for him one way or another because he knows that he still has fuel in the tank and it's very legitimate fuel in the tank."

Can Gonzalez walk away from the No. 7 scoring offense on a team that was five points shy of a Super Bowl appearance? Especially with that being the one thing missing from his Hall of Fame resume?

The organization hopes not, because that offense will undergo significant changes when he's gone.


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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:19 am 
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I know this is before the combine, but I would snag Tracis Kelce, who projects 3-4th round. Here's my thinking:

If Tony comes back, you have a good blocking TE and a chance for Coffman to step up his game to take over for Tony G next year.. If not, then you get a good blocking TE and you find out whether or not Palmer or Coffman can make the jump now. The question here is do you plug in a FA and draft for the future? IMO this is a band aid solution.

When you've got Roddy+Julio, then a new backfield threat ( Quizz) and Tony, there's not alot of 'room' for any TE to 'develop'. So I cant say by the 'eyeball test' that Palmer of Coffman will not get the job done. They aren't going to 'replace' Tony, and no FA can. I would shy away from drafting a TE in the first round. IMO, we need a DE with that pick.
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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:10 pm 
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If Tony stays or goes I just hope that he lets the team know before FA starts.

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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:09 pm 
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I don't get how Kelce's stock has risen so much. He had a good bowl game vs. Duke, but he's a 6th/7th round pick. Kelce is not a good blocker either despite his size.

You can find out if Coffman/Palmer have the stuff regardless of what you do. The Falcons should use a 2nd/3rd round pick on a good receiving TE particularly one that can stretch the vertical seam. Then in the 4th/5th round you get a blocker. Then Palmer, Coffman compete for a role. If either are good, then you don't have to rely on the rookies. If they are not, then you have the rookies.

If Tony comes back (and I doubt he does), then you can use Palmer/Coffman as trade bait at the end of camp, and hopefully get a 7th round pick for them if they are any good. If not, then you have Tony, and the 2 rookies.

Or the Falcons can sign a blocker in FA like Anthony Fasano, Ben Watson, or Gary Barnidge. And then draft a receiving TE.

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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:19 pm 
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Pudge wrote:
I don't get how Kelce's stock has risen so much. He had a good bowl game vs. Duke, but he's a 6th/7th round pick. Kelce is not a good blocker either despite his size. .



well, I disagree. if your going to go for a tall strong guy instead of a finesse TE, you could do alot worse. The guy played for Cincy, so he's not used to going against SEC type competition. But I see him a poor man's Gronk. I think he wont even fall to the th round at all. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go in the 3-4th with this class being so TE light.

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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:18 pm 
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Tony has been great!! I don't think you replace that with anyone; the greatest tight end in NFL history IMO. What he must do to get ready for a season is probably kill himself.

From a selfish view of course I'd want him to stick around after 90+ catches and all of his T.D. catches.

I thought Palmer would be better out of Clemson but how do you compare anyone to Tony G.?

If he comes back this year that should help, but we've put ourselves or Thomas. D. has
put us needing a much better defense. You really can't win without a pass rush. I'm afraid Abe will get hurt very early; so I think we really need defense!!

I like Vance Walker better than most or at least I don't hear much on site; but he won't help our pass rush. We'll never see a Tight End do what Tony's done again here in Atlanta; but we can't pretend its not a problem.


I think we got a better chance of getting him back. When a guy comes in from a heart break loss; and says " I don't want to take the pads off " then I think he continues playing!!

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 Post subject: Re: How Do You Replace Gonzalez?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:50 pm 
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http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap100000 ... e-strategy

Roddy White on quest to bring back Tony Gonzalez
0


By Kareem Copeland
Around the League Writer
Published: Feb. 1, 2013 at 08:36 p.m. Updated: Feb. 1, 2013 at 09:03 p.m.

If Tony Gonzalez decides to retire, it won't be for lack of effort from the Atlanta Falcons to change his mind. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has already been in the tight end's ear. Falcons receiver Roddy White is getting in the act, too.

White told ESPN's Chris Mortensen they'll employ the "Brett Favre strategy" to get Gonzalez back to Atlanta.


"Roddy White today revealed that they plan the Brett Favre strategy with the Vikings," Mortensen said, via Rotoworld.com. "Which is, go to California where Tony lives, recruit him, get him on a plane, and drag him back to Atlanta eventually."

It was during training camp in 2010 that the Vikings sent Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell and Jared Allen to Hattiesburg, Miss. to convince Favre to play one more year. Minnesota had lost to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship in 2009.

The Falcons just lost to the San Francisco 49ers by four points in the NFC Championship and they want to run it back one more time with Gonzalez, White, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan.

If the strategy works, Atlanta hopes it plays out better with Gonzalez than it did for the Vikings, who went 6-10 and fired Brad Childress 10 games into Favre's final season.

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