Tony Gonzalez changed his mind and decided to return to the Falcons.
The NFL’s career leader among tight ends with 1,242 receptions and 103 touchdowns said he was 95 percent certain he would retire after 2012, but the other 5 percent won out.
Hours before free agency began, Gonzalez tweeted:
“The lure of being on such a great team and organization, along with unbelievable fan support was too good to pass up.”
Meanwhil, the Baltimore Ravens are paying the price for winning a Super Bowl.
The NFL champions lost two key components of their defense, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, as free agency began Tuesday. On Monday, they traded receiver Anquan Boldin, a key to their title run, to San Francisco — the team the Ravens beat 34-31 to win the championship.
Kruger went north to division rival Cleveland for a five-year, $40 million deal, while Ellerbe headed south to Miami for $35 million over five years. Steelers receiver Mike Wallace joined Ellerbe in choosing the Dolphins.
After giving up a sixth-round draft pick for Boldin, the 49ers saw tight end Delanie Walker leave for Tennessee.
San Francisco also confirmed the trade of backup quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City. The 49ers will receive the Chiefs’ second-round pick, 34th overall, in this year’s draft and a conditional pick in next year’s draft.
Denver ensured that Peyton Manning will be the Broncos’ quarterback through at least 2014. The four-time MVP’s contract called for a guaranteed salary of $20 million in 2013 and 2014 if he was on the Denver roster Tuesday. The final two years of his contract are worth $19 million each, but are not guaranteed. Manning turns 37 on March 24.
Kansas City was busy finding support for Smith on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs agreed to a four-year, $16 million deal with tight end Anthony Fasano, a three-year, $12.6 million contract with defensive tackle Mike DeVito, and a three-year deal with Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
Teams also made cuts. The biggest were Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo and Nnamdi Asomugha in Philadelphia.
Defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, both implicated in the Saints’ bounty scandal, agreed to restructure their contracts to remain with New Orleans.
Minnesota finalized the trade of receiver Percy Harvin to Seattle, released 14-year veteran CB Antoine Winfield and re-signed tackle Phil Loadholt.
Tennessee agreed to terms with Buffalo guard Andy Levitre and Walker. The Titans waived safety Jordan Babineaux and guard Mitch Petrus.
Pittsburgh re-signed linebacker Larry Foote and wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and tendered offers to four restricted free agents: WR Emmanuel Sanders, RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, and nose tackle Steve McLendon.
Denver agreed to terms with guard Louis Vasquez, late of San Diego.
Tight end Martellus Bennett agreed to a four-year contract with the Bears, leaving the Giants after one season. Defensive tackle Henry Melton signed his franchise tag tender at $8.45 million.
Cincinnati re-signed defensive ends Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry.
Houston cut receiver Kevin Walter.
Carolina cut linebacker James Anderson, a seven-year veteran who set a franchise record in 2011 with 174 tackles.
—San Diego released 11-year veteran tight end Randy McMichael and signed kicker Nick Novak to a four-year contract; the New York Jets cut nose tackle Sione Po’uha and restructured the contract of receiver Santonio Holmes; and Arizona re-signed safety Rashad Johnson to a three-year contract.
—Indianapolis agreed in principle on contracts with tackle Gosder Cherilus, linebacker Lawrence Sidbury, guard Donald Thomas, cornerback Greg Toler and linebacker Erik Walden. Each of the deals is pending a physical.