Falcons pursued Deshaun Watson but won’t pursue Lamar Jackson?

953211226045 det v atl

The Falcons haven’t committed to Desmond Ridder as the team’s starter in 2023, saying multiple times they’ll add to the quarterback room. Despite showing impressive poise and gradual growth, Ridder was average at best in terms of production. He did nothing to cement himself as the starter.

This made way for many to speculate on the Falcons’ potential plans at quarterback. Could they sign a veteran backup like Gardner Minshew to compete in training camp? Would a prospect warrant drafting at #8? Or, would the team that pursued Deshaun Watson last offseason once again go big game hunting?

Lamar Jackson was the most readily available star; everyone speculated Atlanta would be interested. After pursuing the disgraced Watson, one would think an MVP with no off-the-field issues would be just as tantalizing. He fits the culture of the city and team while being a seamless schematic fit for Arthur Smith’s offense. The Falcons also have ample cap space and an arsenal of draft picks to facilitate a trade and subsequent contract extension.

That narrative gained significant steam when the Ravens placed the non-exclusive rights franchise tag on Lamar Jackson, thus allowing the quarterback to negotiate with other clubs. Baltimore would then be able to match an offer sheet or receive two first-round picks in exchange for Jackson’s services.

Once the news dropped, many assumed the Falcons would be frontrunners. After all, they had rumored interest, per Matt Lombardo. Within half an hour of the Ravens announcing the franchise tag, multiple credible reporters refuted Lombardo’s report; the Falcons would not be pursuing Lamar Jackson. 

So, let me get this straight: The team that pursued a man — who doesn’t have an MVP — with nearly 30 sexual misconduct allegations against him has absolutely no interest in kicking the tires on Lamar Jackson, who is by all accounts a fantastic human being? That doesn’t pass the smell test.

We know the Falcons went after Deshaun Watson; it really isn’t disputable, even though the team has tried to sweep it under the rug.

One reporter asked Terry Fontenot whether he thought the Falcons were getting Watson. “There was never a time that we felt that we were going to have that player here,” Fontenot said, who refused even to name Watson.

Arthur Blank infamously turned to the same damage control, downplaying the situation, saying the team spoke with Watson on a 75-minute phone call, and that was it. If Watson had decided he wanted to play in Atlanta, “We would have done a lot more work. But we did do work,” Blank said.

The reality is much different. We know how close the Falcons were to landing Watson, and that “surface level” interest is a grave understatement. “Most within the Falcons’ building assumed Watson was theirs.”

But they won’t even negotiate with Lamar Jackson? Yeah, something is definitely fishy.

There are a few jovial explanations. The Falcons could genuinely believe in a much cheaper option in Desmond Ridder, despite downplaying it to the media. Giving the impression that Ridder hasn’t won the job yet will keep him humble; it’s certainly a possibility, even if unlikely.

The Falcons also might not want to set themselves back with a deal like this. Terry Fonteont has spoken at length about how important discipline is in deal-making. Acquiring Lamar Jackson would cost considerable draft capital and gobs of cash. The front office could see building the roster around a cheaper quarterback as a more palatable approach.

However, there is also a more dark explanation for the lack of interest. NFL owners aren’t happy with the Haslems giving Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed contract, and it wouldn’t be the first time they collude to protect their bottom line. It’s awfully suspicious that half-a-dozen NFL clubs immediately came out to state they wouldn’t be pursuing Lamar Jackson.

A fully guaranteed deal for a recently injured, running quarterback would never be in the cards if I were GM. So that must be noted. It’s just bad business. Still, it’s strange the Falcons, along with other quarterback-needy teams, came right out to denounce their pursuit of Jackson after the Ravens placed the non-exclusive tag on him. At they very least, one would think they would set up a meeting to learn more about what the quarterback wants over his next contract. The Falcons not even doing their due diligence is the suspicious aspect.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: