There’s no way to adequately replace a future hall-of-famer, especially one who may go down as the best to ever play his position. However, that’s exactly what the Atlanta Falcons will attempt to do in finding Tony Gonzalez’s replacement.
With Gonzalez hanging it up, we take a look at the top five 2014 free agent tight end targets the Falcons can go after.
1. Jermichael Finley
Finley missed most of this season with a neck injury that many said at the time may end his career. He and his doctors believe he has recovered fine and will be ready to go next season. The Packers paid Finley $7-million this season, though his next contract should be short in duration and for a lot less money.
Finley was one of Aaron Rodgers top targets in 2011 and 2012, making him a very logical choice for the Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
2. Brandon Pettigrew
Pettigrew was highly touted coming out of college, but has never really lived up to the hype his draft status came with. Some believe he should have produced better numbers sharing routes with Megatron, while others believe Johnson takes many of Pettigrew’s targets. His $3.25-million salary this season is right in the sweet-spot for the Falcons, making him a good choice at tight end in Atlanta.
3. Scott Chandler
Buffalo has been a tough place to catch passes since Jim Kelly retired, which stands for tight ends as well. Chandler had a big 2012, but saw his numbers shrink this season with the terrible quarterback play in Buffalo. Catching passes from three different quarterbacks, Thad Lewis, E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel, may have hurt his 2013 production, but may help Atlanta or another team in need of a tight end, find value in Chandler.
2. Jeff Cumberland
Similar to our No. 3 tight end on the list, Cumberland’s numbers weren’t eye-popping in part to who was throwing the football. First-rounder Geno Smith had trouble completing passes as times, hurting the big framed tight end. Cumberland is a two-way tight end, a player who can catch the ball in traffic as well as block when need be. This makes him especially interesting for a Falcons team that is looking for more toughness and a better running game next season.
1. Dustin Keller
Keller is another two-way tight end who has had a nice career. His veteran status may be something that the Falcons will covet when looking for someone to replace, not just the on-field production, but the leadership qualities. Owner Arthur Blank has gone on the record stating that he wants more toughness next season, something Keller would add to. Keller was a solid contributor to the Jets teams that often played smash-mouth football, something Keller could replicate for the Falcons.
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