The Falcons can go in several directions this offseason. The team finally has cap space to improve a roster desperate for top-end talent and depth. Additionally, Atlanta has a top-10 draft pick for the third year in a row. This is an extremely pivotal offseason, and there’s no telling what direction Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot will go. However, there’s one move that is all but guaranteed: parting ways with Marcus Mariota.
Mariota seemingly stepped away from the Falcons after learning about his demotion. A phantom injury ended his season despite never appearing on any injury report.
According to reports, the Falcons informed Mariota of the change on Thursday morning; by Friday, the team learned the veteran planned to step away. And the Falcons’ head coach went further to say the injury wasn’t an issue all season and that it was Mariota’s prerogative.
The two sides are headed for an inevitable divorce. The former Oregon star’s biggest draw was his support of a young quarterback and his veteran leadership. Now, he’s practically useless in that capacity after leaving the team and Ridder high and dry.
The Falcons will save a whopping $12 million by releasing him while only incurring a $2.5 million dead cap figure. It’s almost impossible to see the Falcons keeping him on the roster in 2023 on his current contract.
I’m not the first to suggest the Falcons parting ways with Mariota is on the horizon; in fact, it’s widely agreed upon within the Falcons community. There’s next to 0% chance Atlanta brings the veteran back at his $14.5 million price tag. It’s certainly possible he returns in some capacity, but not at that figure.
So it’s not exactly a ‘bold’ or ‘big’ prediction for the Falcons to cut him, which ESPN so brazenly forecasts:
Big prediction for the offseason: The Falcons will cut quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was benched for Ridder. Cutting Mariota opens up $12 million in cap space with $2.5 million of dead money. — Schatz
Covering all 32 teams isn’t easy, but this is ridiculous. How Mariota has handled his benching has been highly scrutinized, and it feels like the Falcons weren’t happy. To the public, this is a decision that hasn’t been made. Inside Flowery Branch is entirely different; I think it has already been decided. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith could tell you otherwise, but I don’t buy it. His biggest asset as a stopgap starter was the veteran leadership he provided to mentor the rookie, and with that rendered useless, Marcus Mariota is just a $14.5 million backup.
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