Moving on from Tony Gonzalez won't be easy. You all know that. It's not just that he's a Hall of Famer, because in reality, it's so much more than that. Matt Ryan has depended heavily on Gonzalez. Consider that Gonzalez was targeted 605 times between 2009-2013. Ryan accounts for almost all of those targets (remember he missed 2 games in 2009).
One wonders how Ryan, and by association the Falcons, will cope in 2014. They must figure out a way to distribute those targets. While Levine Toilolo is an interesting prospect, it's not like he can step right in and duplicate Gonzalez's production. The addition of a veteran free agent tight end might be just what Toilolo needs to continue his development and ease his transition into a bigger role.
Dennis Pitta is an interesting option the Falcons may consider. While the Ravens would like to bring back Pitta, with his rookie contract and restricted free agent tender behind him, he may explore free agency. Pitta, drafted in 2010 by the Ravens, isn't a particularly good blocker, but neither was Gonzalez. Pitta lined up in the slot in almost 80 percent of his snaps last year, more than any "tight end" in the league (more on that later). That means he'd be very comfortable in the "security blanket" role Gonzalez formerly occupied. Pitta and the Ravens were "far apart" in their contract negotiations as of last week. And according to one Ravens beat writer, the Falcons are a likely destination if he hits the open market.
The Falcons have lost future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who has retired and taken a television job with CBS. Pitta in the middle of an offense that include wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, catching passes from Matt Ryan, would be a nice look.
I'll be honest, there's a very good chance the Ravens place the franchise tag on Pitta. But with his wide receiveresque role in the their offense, that could amount to a compensation battle the Ravens are unwilling to fight. In short, if Pitta is hit with the franchise tag, he's due the average salary of the top five players at his position. He, like Jimmy Graham, is technically a tight end, but his role is more akin to that of a wide receiver. Wide receivers, of course, get more money. There lies the problem for the Ravens, and there may lie an opportunity for the Falcons.