Desmond Ridder on Falcons trade: I want to play free

NFL: OCT 01 International Series Falcons vs Jaguars

One of the more intriguing moves of the Falcons offseason to this point was the decision to trade quarterback Desmond Ridder.

Everyone was aware the former third-round pick’s time as a starter in Atlanta was over. He was the primary reason the Falcons didn’t break their postseason drought, holding the team back at every turn. No coach could have succeeded with him under center, and Arthur Smith paid the ultimate price because of it, since he was the one who handed Ridder the job without any competition last offseason.

With a new coach in town, upgrading the quarterback position was the primary focus for the Falcons, and they did so by signing Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract. However, many expected Ridder to stick around as a backup. While he certainly isn’t a starting NFL quarterback right now, he was just as effective as Taylor Heinicke and a lot cheaper, which is why the decision to trade him came as a bit of a shock initially.

That move makes a lot more sense now. First and foremost, the Falcons were able to get something of worth for Ridder, adding to their receiver room in the form of former second-round pick Rondale Moore. Then it was announced Taylor Heinicke would cut his salary in half from $9 million to $4.5 million.

It’s a fresh start for everybody involved, and Desmond Ridder is looking forward to the challenge, who said his goal is to play free with his new team.

“One thing I wanna improve is just going out there playing free,” Ridder said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “A lot of the times I felt like I was playing not to mess it up, not to screw it up. And so just to be able to go out there, play free, play loose, play within the system. And then there were a lot of good things that I did on film and then there were some bad things.

“It just happened to be that those bad things outweighed the good. There was a lot of the games where it was 90 percent good and 10 percent bad, and in those 10 percent, that just happened to be the determining factor of the game.”

There is no question Arthur Smith didn’t fully trust his quarterback last year, and why should he have? Desmond Ridder did do some good things, but he constantly stabbed his team in the back, leading the league in red zone turnovers. The decision-making was putrid, so I’m not quite sure playing more free is the answer to fixing what ultimately led to him being benched.

The one thing Ridder will have going for him in Arizona, however, is that there will be no pressure. Last year, he was expected to be the guy to lead the Falcons back to the postseason for the first time since 2017. Anything less than that with his supporting cast of offensive weapons was viewed as a failure.

In Arizona, he’ll be the backup of a team with low expectations. Even with Kyler Murray, nobody is expecting the Cardinals to make a postseason run in the tough NFC West. If Desmond Ridder does get the call at some point next season, he’ll have the ability to play as freely as he desires.

Photo: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire

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