Why the Green Bay Packers Should Be Calling the Falcons on TE Tony Gonzalez
A man set in his team-building principles, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson rarely makes the high-profile free-agent pick up or trade.
The fact that 50 of his 53 current players have never played a down for another NFL team highlights a draft-and-develop methodology that has worked so well for him over the years.
Yet with Tuesday's trade deadline looming, Thompson should at least be making a call to Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff about the availability of tight end Tony Gonzalez.
The 37-year-old hasn't demanded a trade, nor have his head coach or general manager even hinted at the possibility. In fact, ESPN's Vaughn McClure reported that both Mike Smith and Dimitroff have remained steadfast in keeping Gonzalez on the roster despite a Falcons team that looks dead in the water in 2013.
ESPN's Adam Schefter also reported Tuesday morning that the Falcons' stance "hasn't changed" on dealing Gonzalez before the deadline.
Falcons stance has not changed: they say they are not trading TE Tony Gonzalez now nor by today's 4 pm trade deadline.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 29, 2013
However, Gonzalez openly admitted to McClure that he hears and understands the trade rumors surrounding his current situation. A future Hall of Famer, Gonzalez made a return to the NFL this season to chase a Super Bowl ring, and the 2-5 Falcons no longer have the look of a true contender. A deal now would, even to Gonzalez, make sense.
"It would be something that would come from them where they said, 'Hey, it makes sense because we could get something good for you and send you to a team that's a contender,'" Gonzalez said, via McClure. "So I understand the thought process behind that."
The 5-2 Packers are certainly a contender, and Thompson's roster currently features a glaring hole at tight end. A hole that, given the right price, Gonzalez would appear to be a perfect match for.
*NFL TE records
Over seven games with the Falcons, Gonzalez has 38 catches for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Among tight ends, he is currently fifth in receptions and seventh in receiving yards.
In Green Bay, Gonzalez would slide in as a nine-game replacement for Jermichael Finley.
The Packers' starting tight end suffered a spinal contusion on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. His current status and recovery timeline are mostly unknown, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Packers are "expected" to place Finley on season-ending injured reserve. For now, the Packers are gathering all the medical information possible before making a final decision.
"We're going to wait until everything comes in," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said last Wednesday. "We'll do our due diligence and, obviously, not be premature on anything. We'll do what's in the best interest of Jermichael."
In the meantime, Green Bay has turned its attention at the position to Andrew Quarless—mostly a blocking tight end—and Brandon Bostick, who is in the mold of Finley but still too raw to be counted on this season. The two have combined to catch just six passes for 41 yards in 2013.
Any deal for Gonzalez would require the Packers to take on $3.7 million this season, but Green Bay has ample cap room to handle such a remaining salary. According to Spotrac, the Packers have over $10 million in available money in 2013. Even taking on Gonzalez's $3.7 million would provide Thompson some security money this season, plus the option of rolling over cap room to next season.
Gonzalez does have another year on his deal for 2014, but he has committed to 2013 being his last NFL season.
The fit also makes sense considering Thompson's bidding past.
Should the Green Bay Packers be interested in a deadline deal for TE Tony Gonzalez?
While Thompson has historically had a risk aversion to signing or trading for players like Gonzalez, he's already made one past attempt to acquire the tight end. According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Packers were one of the teams attempting to get Gonzalez out of Kansas City back in 2008.
Eventually, the Chiefs and Falcons agreed to a deal that sent a second-round pick to Kansas City. Back then, Thompson likely balked at giving up that high of pick. Yet the asking price shouldn't be that high this time around, with a fourth- or fifth-round pick representing a more realistic starting point now.
If Thompson can get Dimitroff to sign off on a fifth-round pick for Gonzalez, the Packers should make the deal.
Gonzalez is an impact player at a position of need and a class act in and out of the locker room. The Packers wouldn't be trading for a malcontent here; Gonzalez is a respected veteran who could help the Packers survive the losses of Finley and Randall Cobb down the stretch.
Nine-game rentals are certainly outside of the code Thompson so often builds his teams by. But if Gonzalez can be had, this situation becomes a different reality for the Packers general manager.
At the very least, Thompson should be on the phone today to gauge what it would actually take to get Gonzalez off of Atlanta's sinking ship and on to Green Bay's roster of contenders.
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