Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

. TE. (2009-13). Tony Gonzalez. 10. player. 44

  • 4x Pro Bowl w/Falcons (2010-13)
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro w/Falcons (2012)
  • NFL All-Decade Team (2000s partially w/Falcons)
  • 409 receptions, 4,187 yards, 35 touchdowns in Falcons uniform
  • Arguably the greatest tight end of all-time

Tony Gonzalez was already the greatest tight end in NFL history by the time he arrived in Atlanta in a February 2009 trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Gonzalez changed the game at the tight end position during his 12 years with the Chiefs by bring a basketball power forward approach to going up and getting the ball for third-down conversions and touchdowns.

But second-year starting quarterback Matt Ryan needed a safety valve. Longtime tight end Alge Crumpler left upon Ryan’s arrival in 2008. While he had a great rapport with wide receiver Roddy White as a rookie, Gonzalez was a necessary addition to take the Falcons’ aerial assault to the next level during the peak Mike Smith years.

Though he only played in Atlanta for five years, Gonzalez was simply outstanding from day one until his last game in 2013. While he never went over 1,000 yards in Falcons uniform, you could count on Tony G to have well over 80 receptions for 850 yards and six touchdowns annually with the Dirty Birds.

Gonzalez did not have the speed, or frankly the verticality, he had while with the Chiefs, but he was a top-tier tight end to the very at end age 37 in 2013. Atlanta made the NFC playoffs three times with Gonzalez on the team. That included three double-digit win seasons, two division titles and a run to the 2012 NFC Championship.

Besides forming an incredible receiving trio with White and a then young wide receiver by the name of Julio Jones, Gonzalez might be best remembered as helping Atlanta achieve its first consecutive winning seasons. Atlanta had never finished above .500 in back-to-back years until 2008 and 2009.

No, Gonzalez’s absence during 2013 training camp didn’t help Atlanta at all, as the Falcons went an atrocious 4-12 in his final NFL season. That being said, Gonzalez was invited to his 14th Pro Bowl in his last season in the NFL, tying an NFL record with Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews and Merlin Olsen.

Gonzalez ended up with 409 receptions for 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Dirty Birds. He is already in the College Football Hall of Fame from his time at Cal. Gonzalez will be a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in the 2019 class. His Canton enshrinement will almost certainly give way to his induction into the Falcons Ring of Honor. The guy is the greatest tight end of all-time. Just saying.