Terry Fontenot said earlier in the offseason that the organization can see the light at the end of the tunnel, regarding the current state of the rebuild. The Falcons were forced to unload a ton of bloated contracts through trade over the last couple of years, including franchise icons Julio Jones and Matt Ryan, resulting in a record-breaking dead cap hit. It’s a testament to Arthur Smith and the rest of his staff that this team was even able to stay competitive this season, but just being competitive isn’t going to cut it in 2023.
Atlanta is set to have $80-90 million in cap space this offseason and a top-ten draft pick. There’s a number of ways they could go, but much of their decision-making revolves around the quarterback position. Is Ridder the guy?
I don’t think anyone can answer that at this point. He’s had his moments, including orchestrating a game-winning drive against the Cardinals last Sunday. But he’s also failed to throw a touchdown or for 250 yards in any of his three starts. I wouldn’t mind handing Ridder the reins, especially if he performs well against the Bucs, and seeing what he has over a full season of games in 2023, but I could also see why the Falcons have other ideas.
Pressure on Management
For the most part, it’s ridiculous to say Terry Fontenot or Arthur Smith is on the hot seat. They’ve been operating with one hand behind their back ever since taking over, unwinding the mess that the last regime made before being dismissed. This team has had no expectations, and they have exceeded them.
However, the NFL is the “Not For Long” league for a reason, and that saying pertains to players, coaches, and front office personnel. Two losing seasons with a porous roster is one thing, but a third would likely put everyone on the hot seat. Members of the organization are always performing for their job, so that added pressure could force the Falcons to attempt to expedite the rebuild by bringing in a more polished signal caller, especially if they don’t believe Ridder will ever be a franchise quarterback.
A Surplus of High Quality Veteran QBs Available
Of course, this wouldn’t even be a question if there weren’t several high quality QBs potentially available this offseason. The prized jewel on the trade market is Lamar Jackson. I have a difficult time imagining him in any colors other than purple and black, but he doesn’t have a contract and is set to become a free agent at season’s end. Also, because he and the Ravens don’t have a deal, it seems Jackson is unwilling to play again before the playoffs, which adds even more fuel to the fire. Whether a contract extension is signed or not, the Ravens will, at the very least, franchise tag Jackson and trade him. I think they’ll eventually work something out, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion as it seemed a year ago.
Even if Jackson doesn’t become available, there are other options the Falcons could turn to. Derek Carr will be moved from Las Vegas and shouldn’t cost many draft picks to acquire. Ryan Tannehill also could be moved and has a previous relationship with Arthur Smith, who helped Tannehill throw 33 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions in 2020.
The NFC South Couldn’t Be More Winnable
The NFC South is a dumpster fire. Tampa Bay won it this year and might not even finish .500. That’s with Tom Brady as well, who could find a new home or retire this offseason. If that’s the case, there’s very little chance the Bucs repeat as NFC South champions. But if not them, who?
The Panthers could head into a total rebuild, and the Saints are in an even worse position. They have no quarterback and very little cap space and draft capital to make any moves. Without upgrading at quarterback, the Falcons have a shot at winning the division. But if they upgrade to one of the names above and fill out the rest of their roster with quality free agents and draft picks, they’ll quickly become the favorites, depending on how the rest of the division approaches the offseason.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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