Andrew Perna. 23rd April, 2009 - 4:05 pm
Tony Gonzalez's name had been mentioned in trade rumors for the better part of the last few years, and he finally changed addresses on Thursday afternoon.
The Chiefs agreed to send the 10-time Pro Bowl tight end to the Falcons in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
As recently as Wednesday morning, the Eagles had been rumored to lead the race to pry Gonzalez away from the rebuilding Chiefs. Don Banks of SI.com wrote that Atlanta wanted a second-rounder for the future Hall of Famer, while Philadelphia was only willing to give up a third-round selection.
Banks' report turned out to be prophetic, as the Falcons slipped in on Thursday and gave the youthful Chiefs the second-round pick they were looking for, albeit next season.
Gonzalez is 33, but he's extremely durable and hasn't showed any serious signs of slowing down as of yet. His 96 catches last season were the third-highest mark of his 12-year career, his 1,058 yards were the four-highest tally, and his 10 touchdowns tied for his second-best total.
He claims that he has at least another season or two of productivity left in him, and the change of scenery could help him accomplish -- if not more.
The Falcons, who didn't have a tight end with more than 15 receptions in 2008, will enjoy Gonzalez's athleticism and hands, but won't need to target him quite as often as the Chiefs have in recent seasons.
The deal is a win-win for Atlanta and their new starting tight end, as he'll provide production at a position they got almost nothing from last season and they'll give him a chance to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, while preserving some longevity.
Gonzalez, who led Kansas City in receiving seven times during his tenure with the team, won't do the same in Atlanta, but he'll be a safety value for an already poised Matt Ryan in a passing attack that ranked in the middle of the league (14th, 208.5 ypg) in 2008.
Reports following the news of the trade indicate that the Falcons have signed Gonzalez to a new contract, which I wouldn't expect to be longer than two or three years. He's also made his money, so I doubt it's an extremely lucrative one.
Assuming that the Eagles were the only other team that had legitimate interest in Gonzalez, he has been interjected in the better situation. He would have been labeled as a messiah in Philadelphia in the wake of L.J. Smith's departure, and each dropped pass or missed blocking assignment would have been magnified.
Fans in Atlanta have to be thrilled that a legend like Gonzalez was fine with becoming a Falcon with the Michael Vick saga still lingering slightly overhead.
Grade for Gonzalez: A-
Not only does this deal give the Falcons a top-flight tight end -- even if he is coming down off of his best play -- but it allows them to focus their attention towards defense in this weekend's draft. Many mock drafts had Atlanta taking a tight end in either the first or second round, something they can now put off or do in the later rounds.
Grade for Atlanta: B+
The move was something that the Chiefs simply had to do, especially with a new regime and full-scale rebuild in the works. Matt Cassel is a better option at quarterback than anyone they had last season, with no disrespect to Tyler Thigpen, who somehow believes that he deserves a shot to start over the $15-plus million dollar man.
They don't have anyone ready and worthy of stepping in as a starting-caliber tight end, but they were able to address a few needs via trade, which will allow them to fill a trench position with the third overall pick and perhaps take a tight end in the middle rounds.
It's never easy to trade a player that has become synonymous with your organization, but Scott Pioli and Todd Haley mean business in Kansas City. Gonzalez wasn't going to be in the fold long-term, so dealing him for a valued second-rounder was a move that at the very least makes a fair amount of sense.
It's also worth noting that the Chiefs didn't settle for a third-rounder, holding strong until roughly 48 hours prior to this year's draft before pulling the trigger on a deal.
Grade for Kansas City: B+
Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com and co-host of RealGM?s Radio Show. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com