Falcons backup QB Taylor Heinicke ranked among league’s best

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The Falcons came into the offseason with questions about the quarterback position. Would they go big game hunting as they did last year? Would they find a franchise signal caller in the draft? Or would the club give Desmond Ridder the keys?

Though the draft is still about a month away, it seems clear the Falcons will be led by Desmond Ridder, with Taylor Heinicke as a mentor and backup. Ridder deserves a shot to be the man in Atlanta, and Heinicke is ready to support him in any way he can.

“They drafted (Ridder) high last year for a reason,” Heinicke said. “They believe in him for a reason. He showed some good film last year. If something unfortunate happens to him, I’ll be ready to go. That’s kind of been my life the last three years. I will try to be the best backup I can to Desmond, try to help him any way I can.”

Heinicke is a breath of fresh air for Falcons fans who were left with a terrible taste in their mouths from Marcus Mariota, who left Ridder high and dry following his demotion. It’s why Heinicke is regarded as one of the top backups in the league — 3rd best according to Sports Illustrated.

Heinicke has a way of not being forgotten, and that’s a good quality to have for a backup quarterback.

Commanders coach Ron Rivera likely didn’t panic when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down to injury in the 2021 season opener nor when Carson Wentz struggled this past season, because he knew he had Heinicke. Sure, the comfort level was also there because Fitzpatrick and Wentz weren’t top-level quarterbacks and it was a high possibility that Heinicke could at least play at the same level, but Heinicke provided confidence, which stems from the ’20 playoff game against Tampa Bay. Heinicke had a record of 7–8 in ’21 and 5-3-1 in ’22.

Don’t be surprised if Falcons coach Arthur Smith quickly turns to Heinicke if second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder struggles early in the season. —GM

Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton were the only backups in front of Heinicke, and I think that’s probably right. He’s being paid like one of the top backups too.

Heinicke’s deal is essentially for one year and worth $7 million with a cap hit of $5 million. His cap hit would be $9 million if he’s not released, but Atlanta can save $7 million against the cap if they release him before his 2024 roster bonus.

The incentives are what make this deal worthwhile for Heinicke. An extra $3 million each year if he reaches certain playtime thresholds. The Falcons hopefully won’t be paying those incentives because Desmond Ridder has taken a stranglehold, but Taylor Heinicke is a nice insurance policy.

Photographer: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire

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