The Falcons are turning to Desmond Ridder as the team’s starter, despite Lamar Jackson requesting a trade from the Ravens and Atlanta being an ideal landing spot. The fit is seamless and works in more ways than one, especially considering the Falcons heavily pursued Deshaun Watson last offseason. However, club owner Arthur Blank says the situations are very different.
More Blank on Jackson: “Looking at it objectively I’d say there’s some concern over how long can he play his style of game. Hopefully a long time …, but he’s missed 5, 6 games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business.”
— Josh Kendall (@JoshTheAthletic) March 28, 2023
Blank probably should’ve sat this one out or just answered in a different capacity. Lamar Jackson has missed 11 games over the last two years due to injury, which is accurate and fair to be cautious about. However, Deshaun Watson has missed 28 games in the previous three years and has torn his ACL twice over his career.
Moreover, advanced sites like Draft Sharks, which closely track injuries and project future probabilities, favor Jackson’s durability over Watson’s. The former has a 9% chance of serious injury in 2023, compared to the latter’s 17% chance. It’s fair to wonder if Jackson’s style of play will hold up over his career but to say that’s the reason for pursuing Watson and not Jackson is false.
After rolling the red carpet out for the disgraced Watson, one would think a 26-year-old MVP with no off-the-field issues would be just as tantalizing. Jackson fits the culture of the city and team while being a seamless schematic fit for Arthur Smith’s offense. The Falcons also have ample future cap space to fit his subsequent contract extension and an arsenal of draft picks to facilitate a trade.
The team that pursued a man — who doesn’t have an MVP — with nearly 30 sexual misconduct allegations against him and missed just as many games has absolutely no interest in kicking the tires on Lamar Jackson, who is by all accounts a fantastic human being?
During the Deshaun Watson saga, Arthur Blank infamously put on some pathetic damage control, downplaying the situation, saying the team spoke with Watson on a 75-minute phone call, and that was it. If Watson had decided he wanted to play in Atlanta, “We would have done a lot more work. But we did do work.”
The reality is much different. We know how close the Falcons were to landing Watson, and that “surface level” interest is a grave understatement. “Most within the Falcons’ building assumed Watson was theirs.”
The fact is the Falcons pursued Deshaun Watson because Arthur Blank told them to. The club’s owner clearly valued his past relationship with the former Gainsville High School quarterback and disregarded the more than two dozen (at the time) pending sexual assault cases against Watson.
I don’t disagree with Arthur Blank’s assessment about Lamar Jackson’s style of play not warranting a pursuit, but to disregard Watson’s off-the-field issues at the same time is contemptible.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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