In the few hours since the Falcons faltered in an inexcusable home loss to the Jets on Monday night, there has been rampant speculation about the team’s future. To make matters worse, Julio Jones could be out for the rest of the regular season, and that move (perhaps) pushed the fan base to discussing extravagant rebuilding ideas including the potential trade of Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez.
However, head coach Mike Smith was very quick to dismiss to the rumors in a direct quote to ESPN.com:
“That’s preposterous that Tony would be traded. He’s an integral part of our offense and has been since he’s been here. And he’s having another Hall of Fame season.”
That is about as definitive as it gets, and with direct quotes from Gonzalez (both to FOX’s Jay Glazer directly, and publicly at Wednesday’s press conference), it’s pretty clear that he isn’t going anywhere. At the same time, it would be irresponsible to 100% ban the idea, as even the Falcons would have to admit that with a couple more losses, the team’s prospects for the playoffs would be in tank. The schedule is very open for the Falcons, though, and the team could conceivably favored in each of the next 3 games (Tampa Bay, @Arizona, @Carolina) before hosting Seattle on November 10th.
After back-to-back huge games, Tony Gonzalez is now 5th in the league among tight ends (and 26th overall) in receiving yards with 339, and tied for 2nd in the league among TE’s (6th overall) in receptions with 33 in just 5 games. In short, he is still one of the best players in the league at his position, and with the organization still clearly in “win now” mode, it would be a big-time stretch to see him traded.
For me, it’s the right move to hang on to Gonzalez, at minimum until the Falcons legitimately (aka mathematically) fall out of the race for the playoffs. It would be such an overhaul for this organization to do a complete sell after 5 games, and with 10 wins virtually assuring an NFC playoff spot (and 9 wins taking you into the conversation), winning 9 of the team’s last 11 games is a challenge, but at the same time, it’s not inconceivable.
Tony Gonzalez will be in an Atlanta Falcons uniform for the foreseeable future, but if things go south in the next 3 weeks, that position could quickly change.