Replacing Tony Gonzalez

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Overshadowed by the problems with a putrid offensive line and incompetent pass rush, the Atlanta Falcons have a very big hole to fill at tight end with Tony Gonzalez retiring.

We have mourned his loss. Now that Gonzalez finishes out his Hall of Fame career in Atlanta, the Falcons have a roster devoid of talent at the tight end position. As soon as Thomas Dimitroff traded for the greatest tight end of all time he forgot there would be a time without Gonzalez.

Atlanta has added lots of undrafted free agent tight ends and aging veterans that were signed for veteran minimum. Michael Palmer wasn't all bad. Reggie Kelly and Chase Coffman were pretty much all bad.

Oh hey, didn't Dimitroff draft a tight end in the fourth round last year? Yes, Levine Toilolo, and we saw a little bit from him. Actually, a very small bit. Toilolo didn't even reach 200 snaps and got pushed around when he wasn't busy showing questionable hands.

Can Toilolo replace Gonzalez? Maybe "replace" is a strong word but Toilolo never looked like a starter. Dimitroff had some pretty uninspiring words about the tight end.

"Where he ends up in terms of the depth chart will have a lot to do with how we scheme and play our tight ends in the future."

We aren't even to camp and we can't get some empty words about this guy pushing to start? He snagged two touchdowns last year but seems to not offer much other than being really tall. He was considered a project predraft (and generally, not worth a fourth round selection) and it looks like we may have another year where he is just a weak red zone threat.

The Falcons are in a bit of a tight spot. Their Gonzalez replacement isn't on the roster and the current bunch of expected free agents leaves a lot to be desired.

There is literally a Harry-Douglas-Suddenly-Becomes-A-Great-Wide-Receiver odds that the Saints allow Jimmy Graham to become a free agent. It just isn't happening. The only way he doesn't play in New Orleans is if the Saints slap the franchise tag on him and trade him away, and no way they trade him within the NFC South.

The remaining tight ends are a hodge podge of injuries and ineffectiveness. Dennis Pitta, Fred Davis, Brandon Pettigrew and Jermichael Finley round out the remaining players of note, with Pitta somewhat expected back in Baltimore.

Do you suddenly feel a little queasy? I'm feeling a bit ill. This is the start of Gonzalez-withdrawl.

The Falcons lost the greatest tight end in NFL history and he will likely be replaced by some mid-round rookie. Soon we will all get the shakes and the cold sweats. If I were a doctor I would recommend watching Tony highlights and Google image searching October Gonzalez, but they took my license away years ago.

Realistically there is no replacing Gonzalez. Even at nearly 38 years-old, we have no option who can do what Gonzalez did. The odds are heavy we see a scheme change on the offense that reduces the role of the tight end because we cannot replace Gonzalez.

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