The Falcons are riding out the 2023 campaign with Desmond Ridder under center for better or worse.
His first full season as a starting quarterback has been a bag of mixed results. He led a game-winning drive against the Packers, then turned in the two worst performances of his young career against the Lions and Jaguars, but Ridder followed it up with the best performance against the Texans.
On Sunday, Ridder threw three interceptions but did notch the second 300-yard game of his career. There were bright moments, like the best opening drive of his career, and also inexcusable ones, like the interception he threw in the end zone.
It’s been a rollercoaster. Arthur Smith signed up for it, though. He’s hitched his wagon to the third-round pick for at least this season, but that hasn’t stopped national pundits from suggesting the Falcons trade for a replacement in-season.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic wrote about a trade proposal that he’d like to see, not one he thinks will happen. Howe proposed Atlanta acquire Justin Fields in exchange for a 2024 second-round pick, a 2025 conditional third-round pick, and Taylor Heinicke.
Why it makes sense
Howe: Remember, these are trades we want to see — not necessarily those we expect to happen. The Bears are tracking toward the No. 1 pick in the draft, either with their own selection or from the Panthers, so they’re in play for USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye. With major changes likely on the horizon again, it might be best to maximize Fields’ value. Meanwhile, the Falcons were linked to Fields (who’s from Kennesaw, Ga.) before the 2021 draft, and he seems like a pretty solid fit for Arthur Smith’s offense.
Fields’ thumb injury complicates this idea, but this would be more of a move with the future in mind. Desmond Ridder has been struggling, and Falcons coach Arthur Smith’s facial expressions Sunday after each interception said a lot about that situation. Again, with a midseason trade, it might be a lot to ask Fields to step in for Ridder relatively soon, but he could get a jump on the offense and position himself to relieve Ridder if necessary, assuming the thumb heals. The extra time in the system could better prepare Fields for 2024.
I never understand why pundits suggest in-season quarterback trades. They never happen for a variety of reasons, but the most chief being the unrealistic expectation of asking anyone, let alone a young signal caller like Justin Fields, to pick up an entire offense on the fly and expect them to execute it.
That’s delusional. Fields might be traded this offseason for the reason Howe laid out, Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, but the Bears will absolutely not be moving him without securing one of the first two selections to guarantee their chances of landing one of Williams or Maye.
Mike Jones acknowledges one of these facts but ignores the other.
Why it won’t happen
Jones: Bears GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus didn’t draft Fields, so they might not be as invested in him as someone who had. But Chicago has done a lot to surround Fields with pieces, and after a rocky start to the season, things might be looking up. Before injuring his thumb on Sunday, Fields was coming off his two best games, having thrown four touchdown passes in back-to-back weeks while also getting his first win of the season. If he can make it back on the field promptly, the playoffs aren’t out of reach, so I don’t see the Bears parting with a talent like Fields in-season. If this season is a disaster, they can always revisit this in the offseason.
The Bears aren’t going to trade Justin Fields because there’s no guarantee right now that they’ll be able to draft his replacement. However, the Falcons aren’t trading for Justin Fields because Desmond Ridder’s replacement is already inside the building.
It’s shocking that media outlets like The Athletic are either blatantly ignoring the fact that starting quarterbacks don’t get traded in-season or they don’t know it.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire