After the Falcons lost to the 49ers in upsetting fashion Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl against the Ravens, the biggest news out of Atlanta is whether or not Tony Gonzalez will play one more year or finally hang up the cleats for good.
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Gonzo and head coach Mike Smith will have a conversation regarding the future Hall of Famer's status with the team. Smith is holding out hope that Gonzo will rethink his decision of retirement, which stands at "97% for retirement" according to backup tight end Michael Palmer. We've seen this with Gonzalez in the past. The retirement rumors had been floating around after the 2011 season, only for Gonzo and the Falcons to agree on a one-year, $7 million contract extension signed on January 1 of 2012. Gonzo's decision might have swerved a little bit after the Falcons won in a close one over the Seahawks. Which, remarkably, was Gonzalez's first playoff win in his 14-year career. That's such a shame. But we've seen good-to-great players suffer from being on bad teams (Barry Sanders anyone?)
If Gonzalez opted to come back for one more year because that one win felt too sweet, the Falcons will most definitely welcome him back with open arms. At 36 years old, Gonzo ranked 2nd in receptions for tight ends with 93, behind only Jason Witten (110). His 930 receiving yards ranked only 3rd-overall behind Witten (1,039) and Jimmy Graham (982). And he racked up 8 touchdowns, which is a feat in itself when you have guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones to share the ball with. Even at 37 years old once the 2013 season begins, there is no doubt in my mind Gonzo can finish as a top-5 to top-10 tight end by the end of the season.
What if he decides to hang it up and call it a career? Hall of Fame all the way. I would even argue that Gonzalez should go down as the best tight end EVER to play the game. He'll have finished with 1,242 catches, 14,268 receiving yards and 103 touchdowns. First ballot Hall of Fame is right around the corner. I also believe networks will be clamoring for Gonzo's services as an NFL Analyst. I had the pleasure of being able to interview Gonzo along with my friend and former colleague Craig Davis on one of our fantasy football shows. He came off as one of the most down to Earth players I had ever met. And lets face it. The guy is good looking. He'll fit perfectly on television, just like Michael Strahan and so many others before him who went from player to commentator.
In the end, Gonzo's path for 2013 is looking bright in whatever he attempts to do. If he comes back, he'll be with a team who should be a shoe in for another playoff run in 2014, barring some sort of monumental collapse. If he retires, he'll be one of the most sought after personalities on the screen. Either way, I am glad I had a chance to see one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform.
You get 'em Tony!