Without any substantial reports, everyone predicted the Falcons would be in on Lamar Jackson. And who could blame them? It makes sense in several ways.
Chiefly, Atlanta has enough cap space to hand him the lucrative contract he desires and enough draft capital to facilitate a trade. Moreover, the schematic fit is seamless between Lamar Jackson and Arthur Smith’s offense.
What pushed the narrative over the edge was a report from Matt Lombardo that talks between the two organizations had heated up in combination with the Ravens placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson. It would allow teams like the Falcons a direct path to negotiate a deal with the MVP quarterback. However, Dianna Russini and other high-profile reporters refuted Atlanta’s interest — “The Falcons will not be pursuing Lamar Jackson.”
In the wake of that news, what are the Falcons’ quarterback options?
Desmond Ridder showed poise and incrementally grew each outing but didn’t do enough to cement himself as the starter for the 2023 campaign. Suffice it to say, Terry Fontenot will be bringing in multiple quarterbacks this offseason.
There’s the highly touted draft class. Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson are all options, and the Falcons have been reportedly digging deep into the class’ film.
All seem poised to go in the first ten selections. Young and Stroud will likely require Atlanta to trade up, but that shouldn’t be ruled out. If the Falcons see one of them as a franchise quarterback, they should go get their guy. A quarterback on a rookie contract might be the most valuable thing in the NFL today; it would expedite Atlanta’s rebuild, regardless of what the cost would be to trade up.
Levis and Richardson have similarly high ceilings because of their impressive tangibles. Both have rocket launchers for arms and possess the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. Levis is much more refined, but Richardson’s potential is the highest among the entire draft class. He was made in a football lab, featuring elite measurables, but he needs some TLC to realize that potential.
Then, there are the free agent options that would compete in training camp with Desmond Ridder, which I think is the most likely outcome. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, Taylor Heinicke, Drew Lock, and Gardner Minshew are potential targets.
Brissett led the Browns to a more than respectable record before Deshaun Watson took over. He honestly doesn’t get enough credit for his 11 games. He should once again be one of the highest-paid backups in the league.
Minshew is an electric personality who can provide a spark if needed. He is average in most facets of the position — arm strength, accuracy, decision-making, and playmaking. However, he’s not elite in any one area or consistent enough to be a starter for the full season.
Heinicke is the most athletic of them and gave the Commanders a real shot to get into the postseason, but Carson Wentz made sure that didn’t come to fruition. With Heinicke, Washington went 5-3-1 while he completed 62% of his passes with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
They aren’t exactly inspiring options, but that’s what you expect from backups. The hope should be Desmond Ridder beats out whoever the Falcons bring into camp, which is what I expect to come to fruition.
Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire