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Falcons can't replace Gonzalez, but can try

It will be extremely difficult to replace Tony Gonzalez. The Atlanta Falcons understand it.

You can’t just go out and find someone who is a future Hall of Famer and the most prolific player at his position. You could find another elite-level tight end by spending some serious cash, but it seems highly unlikely the Falcons will make a bid for Jimmy Graham, if the New Orleans Saints' tight end happens to reach free agency.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff talked in general terms of about losing Gonzalez and what he’s looking for from the tight end position moving forward.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Nobody replaces Tony Gonzalez,’’ Dimitroff said. "We’ve been very fortunate to have him on our team the last five years.

"As we continue to build this football team, we’re going to have to make sure that we have the right mix and the right amount of tight ends with blocking ability and tight ends with pass-catching ability. Every year, you’re going to find a unique mix of that talent, both on the free-agent side and the college side. And it’s no different this year with that.’’

The Falcons hope former fourth-round draft pick Levine Toilolo develops into a reliable pass-catching tight end, although Toilolo has a long way to go in terms of blocking. Chase Coffman didn’t see the field much this past season and is headed to free agency.

We've talked the past few days about free agents mentioned in conversation during the Senior Bowl related to the Falcons' needs. There was one interesting tight end brought up, although the conversation was more about the player’s health than his possible fit with the Falcons.

Jermichael Finley, 6-5, 247, TE, Green Bay Packers

Age: 26

Draft history: 3rd round of 2008 out of Texas

Career games/starts: 70/48

The word: Although Finley has gotten a hard time for some untimely drops over the years, he’s still has the ability to be special in terms of a pass-catching tight end. That being said, he is coming off spinal fusion surgery, which is likely to be a concern for any team, including the Packers. Finley is expected to be cleared in four weeks and will have to show he can regain his old form. In a conversation with ProFootballTalk.com leading up to the Super Bowl, Finley stated a desire to remain with the Packers but also threw out the idea of joining a contender and mentioned the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks.

Would the Falcons look into Finley if he hits the open market? It seems doubtful, considering Finley still wants to be paid like one of the league’s top tight ends, even coming off surgery. He was around $8 million this past season. But at the same time, the uncertainty regarding Finley’s health might encourage the Packers to look elsewhere, thus leading to other teams having the opportunity to secure his services. I once watched Finley score three touchdowns against the Chicago Bears so he has the potential to be a difference-maker, if healthy.

Tuesday: The return of a familiar face?