HONOLULU, HI - JANUARY 29: Tony Gonzales #88 of the Atlanta Falcons carries the ball against the AFC team during the 2012 NFL Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium on January 29, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
It's never wise to count Tony Gonzalez out. That's especially true when you consider the way the Falcons offense is likely to change in 2012.
Consider this: In years past, the Falcons' game has depended on getting Michael Turner going and connecting on short-to-medium passes. In Dirk Koetter's offense, the team will look down the field more often, lean less heavily on Turner and emphasize the dink n' dunk a bit less than they did under Mularkey.
Still, it's not a radical change, and Tony Gonzalez will finish his last year in the NFL as a valuable asset regardless. I'm actually inclined to think that any alterations will benefit the big guy, even as he continues to lose just a little bit of that speed and elusiveness that made him a holy terror earlier in his career.
Reasons? You got 'em.
- Tony's awesome across the middle thanks to his size and sure hands, which makes him ideally suited for short crossing routes and slants over the middle, if he's called upon. With the Falcons looking to strike deeper with Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas/future slot receiver and perhaps even Jacquizz Rodgers, they'll need that sure-handed security blanket on shorter routes.
- The sure-handed thing. Roddy and Julio are excellent wide receivers both, but when you absolutely need a conversion, Tony's the guy to go to. His catch rate has remained high in recent years despite a slip in overall value, and that's gotta make him attractive to Matt Ryan.
- Defenses have to account for Gonzo. The more weapons the Falcons put on the field, the greater the chance there is that somebody ends up wide open.
If this is to be his swan song, I imagine it'll be a pretty good one.
Your predictions for Gonzo's line in 2012?