The tight end position is one that will be in some serious flux over the next year or so. With starter Tony Gonzalez announcing he will retire after the 2012 season, although he has said things like this i would say this really is going to be his last year in the NFL.
Already a sure fire hall of famer when the Falcons acquired him for a 2nd round draft pick three years ago, Tony Gonzalez has continued to play at a very high level and has played a large part in the development of franchise Quarterback Matt Ryan. We all know how accomplished Tony G’s career has been but he is not lasting in the NFL on legacy alone he is still producing at an incredibly high level. Despite there being a vast array of talented tight ends out there in the league, he will still be classed as a top 10 or even top 5 tight end in 2012.
While we expect Tony G to play at a high level next year, the Falcons still need to plan for the future of this position. So do the Falcons have the future starter already on the roster? Or do we need to look elsewhere?
The Falcons carried three tight ends on the roster last year. Along with Tony G, the Falcons had Reggie Kelly and Michael Palmer.
Reggie Kelly, 34 is on the down slope of his career. He offers very little in the pass game and while being a decent run blocker, it would be a very big surprise if he made the roster next year.
Michael Palmer, is entering his 3rd year with Atlanta and is an interesting prospect going forward. He entered the league as a UDFA and after a solid rookie year, he slipped off a bit in his 2nd year and didn’t really show the improvement the Falcons were looking for. At only 24 there is plenty room for development and his physical skill set reminds me a lot of Kevin Boss. A solid off-season with Matt Ryan and the other offensive weapons he could develop into a Kevin Boss type player.
However even though he could develop into a low end #1 or a high end #2 TE, the Falcons should certainly be on the look out for a tight end who could be the next Tony Gonzalez.
In free agency, there are two guys that could be good options Packers TE Jermichael Finley and Redskins TE Fred Davis, both are under 26 and have good futures in front of them. Neither will be getting elite money so could be worth the Falcons giving their respective agents a call.
In the draft, three guys look like they have the potential to develop into elite tight ends. Those are Clemson TE Dwayne Allen, Stanford TE Coby Fleener and Georgia TE Orson Charles. Click on each name to take you to their respective scouting reports over at NFL Mocks. I personally would love Orson Charles in the 3rd round, potentially in the 2nd as well depending on how he physically performs at the combine.