The Falcons are going to be the center of quarterback controversy until the club finds its next franchise signal caller.
Desmond Ridder impressed in limited action at the end of last season but by no means did enough to cement himself as the starter in 2023.
After seriously pursuing the top quarterback on the market last offseason in Deshaun Watson, Atlanta has been expected to do the same this year with Lamar Jackson, even if nothing substantial has linked the two sides.
Albert Breer spoke with Terry Fontenot at the NFL Combine, and the Falcons GM shed light on the approach to building a roster while addressing the quarterback position.
“I would say [it’s] because, philosophically, it’s about the team,” Fontenot said. “You have to build the right team. And, offensively, defensively, kicking game, for anyone to have success, any quarterback to have success, whether he’s a top draft pick, later draft pick, guy you paid a lot of money in free agency, or a guy that’s already had success, you better have the right team around him for him to have success.
“So our mindset is let’s continue to work hard to build the total team and improve the roster, because in order for anybody to be successful, we have to have the right team.”
It seems very simple: build the roster until any quarterback can win with the supporting cast. With Chris Lindstrom, Drake London, Kyle Pitts, etc., the Falcons have the foundational pieces in place to take significant steps forward this offseason with about $70 million in cap space.
Arthur Smith has netted a 7-10 season with Matt Ryan under center, then reached that same mark with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. It’s a testament to his ability to accentuate his quarterback’s strengths.
Many Falcons fans are clamoring for the team to go after Lamar Jackson, but the Falcons GM is more impressed with the intangibles of a signal caller than the tangible ones. Ridder has displayed elite nonphysical traits thus far, and it’s his time with Drew Brees which has motivated Fontneot to address the position this way.
“None of his numbers are going to be prototype when you look at him,” Fontenot said. “But, man, all the intangibles, no one was going to outwork Drew, no one was going to watch more film than Drew, no one was going to be a better teammate than Drew. The way that’s affected me as an evaluator is looking at a guy with all the intangibles and knowing how important that is. It’s easy to say that—Hey, this guy has the intangibles and he’s got the right makeup. But it’s a grind. It’s an everyday in-and-out, tedious grind.
“And there has to be a rare discipline in you to have those types of intangibles. So that’s the way Drew’s affected me, the way you look at not just quarterbacks but players overall, you better focus on their makeup.”
I wouldn’t take this in any one direction. Don’t think the Falcons are going to trade for Lamar Jackson, but also don’t think they’re committed to Desmond Ridder. Terry Fontenot is leaving the door open at the position, but it’s clear what he values when it comes to quarterbacks.
Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire