Earlier this month, there was a transaction that really caught my attention. The Atlanta Falcons had to release tight end Tony Gonzalez on March 11, because he had not filed his retirement papers yet. According to a league source, via Pro Football Talk, Gonzalez was due to receive a substantial bonus if he was still on the roster on March 13.
Gonzalez thought that's what he might do when he joined the Falcons, especially in the 2010 season, when the Dirty Birds were the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But the Falcons ran into a hot team—the Green Bay Packers—in the divisional round of the playoffs that year and were soundly beaten by the Pack 48-21.
If Gonzalez is really thinking about playing another year, it won't be for the money—it will be for the ring. That's why the Packers might be a surprise destination for Gonzalez this upcoming season, if he does plan to return.
It doesn't hurt that the Packers have an elite quarterback named Aaron Rodgers, who also happened to go to Cal, just like Gonzalez.
By the way, Rodgers had one of the best games of his career the night the Packers upset the Falcons and Gonzalez in that 2010 postseason game, when Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.
We also know that Ted Thompson has wanted Gonzalez on his team in the past, at least he did in 2008, when the Kansas City Chiefs eventually traded Gonzalez to the Falcons after also talking to Thompson and the Packers.
In a question and answer segment with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2009, Thompson gave his views about how all that went down.
Q. At the end of the trading deadline in October, you were in talks to obtain Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, a proven leader and a Pro Bowl talent who went on to have a very good year (96 receptions for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns). It's been reported that you thought you had an agreement to send a third-round pick, but at that last minute the Chiefs raised the price to a second. A little more than a decade ago, Ron Wolf sent a second-round pick to Miami for Keith Jackson not even knowing if he would report. Why not pay a premium price for a player who could have arguably been the difference in you going to the playoffs?
A. I can't get too specific because he's a player who's on another team, but during that particular time, there were some discussions. We were involved in those discussions. We actually thought we were in a good spot to conclude that. It didn't work out.
A number of teams were interested in trading for Gonzalez this past season as well, according to CBSSports.com, when the Falcons were out of the NFC playoff picture. Ultimately, Atlanta decided not to trade Gonzalez.
The Packers weren't listed among the teams in that report, but it makes sense that they might have been interested, considering their attempt to nab Gonzalez five years prior, and also the fact that tight end Jermichael Finley had suffered a season-ending neck injury.
Gonzalez is arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL, and his stats back it up. In his 17-year career in the NFL, Gonzalez has had an astounding 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns.
No. 88 didn't appear to lose a step in 2013, as he had 83 receptions for 859 yards and eight touchdowns.
Bottom line, Gonzalez can still play in the NFL if he wants to.
I know it's outside of the box a bit to think that Gonzalez might play with the Packers in 2014, but I did correctly speculate on the first day of free agency that Julius Peppers might end up as a Packer in 2014, so I'm gonna ride this wave.If Gonzalez does decide to play in 2014 in the NFL, why wouldn't the Packers be a viable choice? They have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, have a great offensive system, plus have the cap room to afford Gonzalez for one more year should he decide to play.