He made so many big plays during crunch time situations for the Atlanta Falcons. He was “the go-to-guy” in 4th down territory, goal line situations and had the ability to stretch out an opponents’ defense so the offense would have the ability to create the big play. Nevertheless, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is now retired. Thus, what will the Falcons do to replace him? Who will step into the big shoes as the next tight end to retire with the most yards all-time?
The 6-foot-5-inch, 247 pound tight end out of the University of California was a dominant force on the field. This year alone, Gonzalez compiled 83 receptions for 859 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. Not to mention, he was Matt Ryan’s go-to guy and second leading receiver behind Harry Douglas.
He simply enjoyed and played the game well, ending his career with a total of 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns. However, we know he produced on the field and will go down as one the best tight ends in NFL history, but how will the Falcons fulfill his role in the offense due to his retirement.
When looking at the other tight ends on the roster, the Falcons are not in bad shape in terms of the number of tight ends available and experience in the league. Case in point, rookie tight end Toilolo Levine showed glimpses of being a great tight end in the years to come in this league. The 6-foot-8 inch, 265 pound tight end from Stanford saw action during the season where he caught 11 passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
With a frame much like New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, with more NFL experience at the position, Levine could be a up-an-coming threat for opposing defenses pretty soon. During the season, Levine took much advice from Gonzalez to better understand his role on the team, which could lead to astounding benefits in the upcoming year.
Meanwhile, tight end Chase Coffman is another high quality option to replace Gonzalez. Coffman has the potential to step up and be the next tight end for the Falcons. He has three years of experience and played well during the 2013 preseason. Coffman has the ability to line up in the slot or as the second tight end on the line. Thus, making him a possible threat from an offensive standpoint for the Falcons.
There is also the option to pick up a tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft in April. In this year’s draft, the Falcons could grab Jacob Pedersen from the University of Wisconsin, Chris Coyle from Arizona State University or Gator Hoskins from Marshall University. These three players possess the pass catching skills that were originally seen in Gonzalez.
With some coaching and proper training from NFL staff, any of these future NFL tight ends could make a direct impact for the Falcons. The 2014 offseason for the Atlanta Falcons will be an interesting one as it continues to unfold.