Breaking Down the Tony Gonzalez Trade

We're almost six hours into the post-Tony Gonzalez era in Kansas City so I hope those of you who heard the news this afternoon have had ample time to digest what this trade means for the Kansas City Chiefs. I touch on a few topics below that came up in the waking hours of the trade. I'm reading your FanPosts and comments and I think I've arrived at some pretty reasonable conclusions about this trade.

Was the compensation fair?

Yes, this 2010 second round pick the Chiefs got from the Falcons for Gonzalez was completely fair. There's wiggle room for debate about the Falcons to throwing in say a 5th round pick but that's about it. No way is TG worth a first rounder. Don't even go there. Even the addition of a 5th round pick is a bit unnecessary to me.

One baseline I'm using to justify this compensation is the TE Kellen Winslow trade that happened in late February of this year. Winslow was traded to the Bucs from the Browns for Cleveland's 2009 2nd rounder and their 2010 5th round pick. Kellen Winslow will be 26-years old by the time the 2009 season starts, quite a bit younger than the soon to be 33-year old Gonzalez. I'm not going to argue that Winslow is better than Gonzalez - that's crazy. My point is that Winslow is one of the top tight ends in the league and that a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick was the market value at that time. That was only a month and a half ago. The market didn't dramatically change, especially for tight ends. A tight end who only wants to play three or four more years, like Tony Gonzalez, cannot intelligently expect to be traded for any higher value than the 25-year old Winslow was traded for in February. He could be traded for close or at that value, but certainly not higher.

We love Tony G. It's that the market for tight ends doesn't deliver big time draft picks in a trade. It's just the way the league works. Tight ends are less valuable than most positions on the football field. And they are less valuable to most teams than Tony Gonzalez was to the Chiefs.

So while in the heads of Chiefs fans Tony Gonzalez is the greatest Chief of all time who will never age, the reality is that his trade value is at its highest right now and it will almost assuredly be going down in the coming years. Gotta strike while you can. I'm glad Pioli did.

Pass catching tight ends aren't that valuable to Scott Pioli and Todd Haley

You know I took this point from Western Chief so I'm just going to quote his post:

I believe Tony was traded because if you look at the Patriot / Cardinal way on offense you don't need a superstar TE. Your big weapons consist primarily of a great #1 wideout (Randy Moss / Larry Fitzgerald) a decent #2 (Anquan Bolden / Joey Galloway / Greg Lewis)  and a sold slot (Wes Welker / Steve Breaston).

My immediate reaction was to go check out the New England teams Pioli was the personnel guy for and see how the tight ends fared in those offenses. What I found reiterated Western Chief's point. Here are the total receptions by tight ends for the New England Patriots since 2000, the year before Pioli became head of the personnel department:

Year
Receptions

by TEs

2000 35
2001 9
2002 42
2003 66
2004 46
2005 53
2006 70
2007 45
2008 31

I mean, that's a pretty clear indicator that Scott Pioli and the systems of the teams he worked for didn't value the offensive power of a tight end as much as the Chiefs have in the last twelve years or so.

Todd Haley's offense in Arizona last year gave a whopping 11 catches to tight ends. In 2007 Leonard Pope had all 22 tight end catches for the Cardinals.

Quite clearly, we're dealing with two men who don't feel the need to have a superstar tight end on their team. Or even an offensive threat of a tight end. No wonder they parted with the greatest tight end of all time within months of taking their jobs. The offenses they run don't require awesome pass catching tight ends.

WesternChief sums up the hypothetical conversation for us:

I'm guessing but I think Pioli and Haley listened to the Falcon's offer of a second round pick next year and they compared that with the offense they are going to run and they made the trade because Tony wasn't going to be as big a part of this offense as he was in year's past.

I'm almost positive that was part of the decision making process. Good point, WesternChief.

The deal isn't over

You didn't expect Scott Pioli to deal Gonzalez and be done with it? Right before the draft no less, did you? Well shame on you. This man is the master of wheelin' and dealin' on draft day. I'll let the man himself tell you what may happen to the 2010 pick the Chiefs got today:

"The pick that is the 2010 pick right now is, as we sit here, could very well be a pick that’s a second round in 2010 but that pick, as you all know can be used in a lot of different ways and can somehow end up being a pick that’s used in the draft this year. So, in terms of us continuing to bring in players and build a roster with players it may be that pick will be the Falcons pick next year or it may be a different pick this year or several picks."

I'm already finding myself saying Hold on when it's come to some of these Pioli deals. The man clearly thinks a few moves ahead and we need to wait and see what happens with this "extra" pick come this weekend.

Tony wanted out of KC, whether he told Pioli or not

This is the worst kept secret in the Kansas City Chiefs front office. Clark Hunt said back in March that the Chiefs had decided to hold on to Tony Gonzalez. During the owner's meetings, Scott Pioli said that Tony had not requested a trade despite a person close to Gonzalez stating earlier that TG would not mind being traded.

"If the Chiefs can't make a deal with the right team, then Tony will be fine with that," The AP was told. "He is not demanding a trade. But if the right deal can be made, he very much would like to be traded."

All you need to read in that quote is the last clause. Come on. Tony G wanted out and we all knew it. That was definitely a factor in the decision making process. Not a deal breaker but probably 15% of the motivation was the fact that Tony wasn't happy in KC.

A second round pick is a second round pick

Maybe it's just me but I don't really mind that the pick is for next year's draft. A second round pick is a second round pick, right? Is this year's second round of the draft supposed to be better than next year's? I don't know and I doubt you could accurately tell that right now.

As Peter King said in his Twitter feed (The comment about BBQ coffee is directed at The PARADE's Twitter feed. Seriously), the Chiefs now have three draft picks in the (likely) first 55 picks. I wouldn't be surprised if we were somehow able to add one more to that mix this weekend. 2010 is looking better already people.

This is what the Patriots do. That's why they always have a plethora of first day picks, just like this year. They wheel. They deal. They don't have an issue parting with fan favorites whose absence will inevitably help the team in the long run.

Be patient. I know our need for immediate gratification wasn't served by this trade but it will pay off next year.

To sum it up...

Tony Gonzalez's value was at it's highest possible point...He didn't even want to play in KC anymore...the new coaching staff doesn't even value pass catching tight ends that much...we still haven't seen the full gamut of this trade...and the compensation was on par with a similar, recent deal. Done.

Finally...amidst all of the criticism and analysis...Thank you, Tony

Tony Gonzalez was the greatest Kansas City Chief of my life time and possibly the greatest Chief of all time. He was an elite tight end. He was an elite receiver. He broke records and invested his time in his community like few have. He also politely declines to fight local KC area wrestlers. Heck, he'll save your life even if you're a Chargers fan. What a classy guy.

Thanks Tony. You will always be a Kansas City Chief.

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