Arthur Blank and Rich McKay met with the Falcons media Monday afternoon following the decision to fire Arthur Smith, and I have to give the typically softer Atlanta media credit. They didn’t let Blank and McKay rush through without answering some hard-hitting questions about the number of horrendous decisions that have taken place over the last several years. The press conference went on for hours, as Blank and McKay were peppered with questions, one of which focused on the Falcons decision not to pursue Lamar Jackson last offseason.
When asked if it was a mistake that the Falcons didn’t attempt to acquire the Ravens star quarterback, Blank said, “I don’t think so. It’s easy to say yes given his year. He’s an incredible player. We did not have the cap space. I think the coaching staff felt, coaching personnel, all of us felt collectively, but certainly coach (Arthur Smith) and Terry (Fontenot), we felt we had an answer in (Desmond) Ridder, a younger player without that kind of contract that would have kept us from actually building the team we wanted to build.”
The Falcons pursuit of Lamar Jackson, or lack thereof, has been well documented. They were one of the first teams to come out publicly and announce they were not interested in one of the strangest free agency sequences I can remember. Collectively, the entire league basically came out and said they had no interest in a former MVP that was just entering his prime. Nobody even wanted to have a conversation.
Now, the reality is Lamar Jackson was never really available. The Ravens would have matched any sensible offer to retain him. Still, teams don’t typically come out and say, “We are not interested,” unprovoked.
The entire situation screamed collusion. The owners weren’t happy with the Browns’ decision to hand Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed contract the offseason prior. It set a bad precedent that they didn’t want repeated. So, they all essentially agreed not to even tamper with Lamar Jackson and let the Ravens do their business.
But of course, Arthur Blank can’t admit to being a part of the inner owner’s circle that truly controls the league. Instead, he has to sit there and tell us everybody in that building believed Ridder was the better option, which is much more embarrassing.
It probably would have taken a fully guaranteed contract for the Ravens to let Lamar Jackson walk, which might have not been the best course of action given he has an injury history and relies heavily on his mobility. However, if you’re a Falcons fan sitting here today following a sixth straight season without a playoff berth, you probably would have liked to have seen your team at least inquire about what it would have taken to acquire a quarterback that is on his way to being named MVP of the league for the second time in his career just after his 27th birthday.
Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire