Tony Gonzalez all but retired after the Falcons' playoff loss. How close is he to changing his mind?
By JOHN MANASSOFS South
It was 5 percent, then 3 percent and now maybe it’s back up to 50 percent.
Those are the chances in percentage terms that
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez gave himself for return for the 2013 season starting at the beginning of last season’s training camp, updated in the playoffs and now, with free agency set to start next month, general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s best estimation.
Last Thursday in an appearance on NBC Sports Network, Dimitroff told Erik Kuselias of his optimism.
“Tony has done so much for us on and off the field,” Dimitroff said. “I don’t believe that’s stating he would be lying to anyone, but I don’t believe the 95 percent. I want to believe it’s a lot closer to 50/50, to be honest with you. We’ve had discussions. Obviously, (head coach) Mike Smith has had discussions with him. We’re all in a good place.
“Ultimately, it’s up to Tony to decide whether he wants to come back and potentially catch 100 balls again.”
When the Falcons defeated Seattle in the divisional round, it represented the first postseason win in the future hall of famer’s career.
“I can’t imagine his appetite wasn’t wet from his contributions during the playoffs,” Dimitroff said.
Speculation was fueled even more on Tuesday when ESPN’s Ed Werder tweeted a quote from an anonymous Falcons player who told him, “I think if the circumstances are right, Tony will come back.”
Gonzalez earned $6.9 million last season. If the Falcons want to lure him back with a salary of similar size – he caught 93 balls for 930 yards and eight touchdowns at age 36 – they would have to do a considerable amount of salary cap gymnastics.
Starting left tackle Sam Baker, coming off his best season, and safety William Moore, coming off a Pro-Bowl year, both are free agents and the Falcons have little in the way of cap room. In addition, the organization will soon embark on negotiations with quarterback Matt Ryan, who will be a free agent following the 2013 season.