Let's put this rumor to bed: Tony Gonzalez is returning in 2010.
Rumors were swirling around the end of the season that Gonzo was hanging it up, something I'm happy to be able to dispel thanks to the one man who knows what Tony Gonzalez is going to do, Mr. Tony Gonzalez. Frankly, I think this is a guy who wants to see some playoff success before he hangs up those cleats, so it doesn't surprise me in the least that he's honoring his contract and moving ahead in 2010. Nice to avoid a Brett Favre will-he-or-won't-he, isn't it?
Obviously, this locks in one huge piece of the offensive puzzle next season. With Matt Ryan and Michael Turner healthy for the start of the year—and yes, my fingers are crossed—and Roddy White and Harry Douglas making some noise, we should have a ton of complements for Gonzo. That's not including Michael Jenkins, who despite the near-constant harassment he gets from Falcons fans is still a very solid option. The Falcons could use more depth at receiver, but aside from upgrading the offensive line there's no major moves to be made to help the offense out. With most of a season under their belt, I like to think they'll really gel in what will hopefully be another transformative season for our beloved birds.
On another level, it really can't be overstated what he brings to this offense. Gonzo had what some might be consider a slightly off year in 2009, yet he still caught 83 passes for 867 yards and 6 touchdowns. We can argue all day about whether Ryan was too reliant on the future Hall of Famer this last year, and I think there's merits to that argument. But without him, we don't win nine games, and Ryan's down a security blanket in the red zone that's so comforting that Linus would openly weep in front of it. That's something I dare you to argue with.
So let's rejoice. There's a lot of off-season to go, but this is the best news we could get early on.