Tony Gonzalez returning to Atlanta Falcons: The record book damage he could wreak

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Where could our favorite tight end rank at the end of his final season?

Maybe the greatest player to ever play for the Falcons is also about to become one of the greatest Falcons ever. You get the difference.

Tony Gonzalez, the best tight end the NFL has had, will be remembered more as a Chief than as a Falcon by most observers, even if very neat things happen next February. But his contributions in Atlanta are still likely to rank him among the best-ever Birds even though he'll only have graced us with five of his years.

And another solid year will make it even harder for, say, Jason Witten to make a run at those all-time tight end records.

To see where he could rank, let's pencil Gonzalez in for 75 catches, 750 yards, and six touchdowns. That would be a smidge behind his current Atlanta average of 81.5 catches, 832 yards, and 6.75 scores, but the man's going to be nearly 38 in January. I'm 31 and can assure you that crossing 30 is kind of like beginning a stringent regimen of anti-steroids, so doing this s--- at 38 sounds about as conceivable as squatting the moon. Plus certain acquisitions could make the team slightly less desperate for his third down miracles - Steven Jackson's pretty good on third downs, for instance. But anyway.

(SIDE NOTE: More should be made of the fact that bringing on Jackson would mean two of the three best Oregon State backs ever being in the same NFL backfield, maybe even at the same time. Dam! Like a beaver.)

Such a season would rearrange certain record books as follows:

NFL records

Other non-retired players in italics.

Before 2013 After 2013

Rank Player Catches Rank Player Catches

1 Jerry Rice 1549 1 Jerry Rice 1549

2 Tony Gonzalez 1242 2 Tony Gonzalez 1317

3 Marvin Harrison 1102 3 Marvin Harrison 1102

4 Cris Carter 1101 4 Cris Carter 1101

5 Tim Brown 1094 5 Tim Brown 1094

6 Terrell Owens 1078 6 Terrell Owens 1078

7 Isaac Bruce 1024 7 Reggie Wayne 1058

8 Hines Ward 1000 8 Isaac Bruce 1024

9 Randy Moss 982 9 Hines Ward 1000

10 Reggie Wayne 968 10 Randy Moss 982

Rank Player Yards Rank Player Yards

1 Jerry Rice 22895 1 Jerry Rice 22895

2 Terrell Owens 15934 2 Terrell Owens 15934

3 Randy Moss 15292 3 Randy Moss 15292

4 Isaac Bruce 15208 4 Isaac Bruce 15208

5 Tim Brown 14934 5 Tony Gonzalez 15018

6 Marvin Harrison 14580 6 Tim Brown 14934

7 Tony Gonzalez 14268 7 Marvin Harrison 14580

8 James Lofton 14004 8 Reggie Wayne 14263

9 Cris Carter 13899 9 James Lofton 14004

10 Henry Ellard 13777 10 Cris Carter 13899

Rank Player TDs Rank Player TDs

1 Jerry Rice 197 1 Jerry Rice 197

2 Randy Moss 156 2 Randy Moss 156

3 Terrell Owens 153 3 Terrell Owens 153

4 Cris Carter 130 4 Cris Carter 130

5 Marvin Harrison 128 5 Marvin Harrison 128

6 Tony Gonzalez 103 6 Tony Gonzalez 109

7 Steve Largent 100 7 Steve Largent 100

7 Tim Brown 100 7 Tim Brown 100

9 Don Hutson 99 9 Don Hutson 99

10 Isaac Bruce 91 10 Antonio Gates 92

Before 2013 After 2013

Falcons records

Let's sim up some conservative numbers for Roddy White and Julio Jones too. Yes, our franchise's history is so bleak that a guy who just got here could start cracking the books.

Before 2013 After 2013

Rank Player Catches Rank Player Catches

1 Roddy White 622 1 Roddy White 712

2 Terance Mathis 573 2 Terance Mathis 573

3 Andre Rison 423 3 Andre Rison 423

4 Alfred Jenkins 360 4 Tony Gonzalez 401

5 Tony Gonzalez 326 5 Alfred Jenkins 360

6 Alge Crumpler 316 6 Alge Crumpler 316

7 Jim Mitchell 305 7 Jim Mitchell 305

8 William Andrews 277 8 William Andrews 277

9 Michael Jenkins 276 9 Michael Jenkins 276

10 Michael Haynes 266 10 Michael Haynes 266

Rank Player Yards Rank Player Yards

1 Roddy White 8725 1 Roddy White 9925

2 Terance Mathis 7349 2 Terance Mathis 7349

3 Alfred Jenkins 6267 3 Alfred Jenkins 6267

4 Andre Rison 5633 4 Andre Rison 5633

5 Jim Mitchell 4358 5 Jim Mitchell 4358

6 Michael Haynes 4220 6 Michael Haynes 4220

7 Alge Crumpler 4212 7 Alge Crumpler 4212

8 Wallace Francis 3695 8 Tony Gonzalez 4078

9 Bert Emanuel 3600 9 Wallace Francis 3695

10 Michael Jenkins 3512 10 Bert Emanuel 3600

Rank Player TDs Rank Player TDs

1 Terance Mathis 57 1 Roddy White 60

2 Andre Rison 56 2 Terance Mathis 57

3 Roddy White 52 3 Andre Rison 56

4 Alfred Jenkins 40 4 Alfred Jenkins 40

5 Alge Crumpler 35 5 Alge Crumpler 35

6 Michael Haynes 34 6 Michael Haynes 34

7 Jim Mitchell 28 7 Tony Gonzalez 33

8 Wallace Francis 27 8 Jim Mitchell 28

9 Tony Gonzalez 27 9 Julio Jones 27

10 Bert Emanuel 24 9 Wallace Francis 27

Before 2013 After 2013

More in the NFL:

NFL mock draft: Changes on the eve of free agency

This is a fake column about Percy Harvin and NFL free agency

Tony Gonzalez will return to Falcons

Victor Cruz wants No. 1 receiver money

Vikings trade Percy Harvin to Seahawks

Ranking the NFL’s top 50 free agents

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