A key figure of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2016 Super Bowl run is calling it quits.
The diminutive wideout entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2014 out of Abilene Christian. He went on to play two seasons each with the Cleveland Browns, Falcons and Chicago Bears, in that order. He was cut by Chicago ahead of the 2020 season and sat out the year due to COVID-19 concerns.
Gabriel, now 30, broke out in his first season in the pros, hauling in 36 receptions for 621 yards and a score from the Brian Hoyer- and Johnny Manziel-led Browns in 2014. The 5-foot-7 stud was Cleveland’s third leading receiver out of the gate, behind Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin.
Just ahead of the 2016 season, however, Gabriel was waived by Cleveland. Within a day of his release, the Falcons picked up him. Their offense, then coordinated by Kyle Shanahan, who coached Gabriel in 2014, needed a burner and got one.
Flanked by Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Gabriel flashed with 579 yards on 35 catches, a career-high 16.5 yards per reception, adding a career-best seven total TDs as well. Five of his receiving scores were from at least 25 yards out, and two were over 60-yard TDs. Gabriel’s field-stretching ability helped the Falcons become the No. 1 scoring offense in the league and quarterback Matt Ryan secure league MVP honors.
During Atlanta’s Super Bowl run, Gabriel logged nine catches for 171 yards, including three for 76 in the Falcons’ devastating loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Gabriel parlayed his super season in Atlanta into a one-year deal to return. In 2018, the wideout signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Chicago Bears.
The receiver racked up career-highs in receptions (67) and yards (688) in his first season in Chicago. Gabriel’s best career game came the following year when he caught three first-half TDs from Mitchell Trubisky in a win over Washington. He missed nearly half of the 2019 season with a concussion.
In all, Gabriel leaves the sport with 228 receptions for 2,860 receiving yards and 15 total TDs in 83 games played.