The 2023 roster features a ton of new faces. Following offseasons where the front office was financially limited, the Falcons could finally participate in free agency with no salary cap restraints. This continues our series of exploring what each acquisition brings to the club, moving onto the backup quarterback — Taylor Heinicke.
Check out any other parts of the series if you’ve missed them!
- What does Jessie Bates bring to the Falcons?
- What does Calais Campbell bring to the Falcons?
- What does David Onyemata bring to the Falcons?
- What does Kaden Elliss bring to the Falcons?
- What does Bud Dupree bring to the Falcons?
- What does Jeff Okudah bring to the Falcons?
- What does Jonnu Smith bring to the Falcons?
Coming into the offseason, there were questions about what the Falcons would do at quarterback. Would they roll with Desmond Ridder? Would they go big game hunting for the second year in a row? Would they bring in competition for Ridder via free agency or the draft?
Well, Taylor Heinicke is your answer. The club inked the former Washington Commander signal caller to a two-year contract, but it’s essentially a one-year deal worth $7 million with a cap hit of $5 million in 2023. Atlanta can save $7 million against the cap if they release him before his 2024 roster bonus, while the incentives are tied to playing time in case Ridder underperforms or is injured.
Heinicke replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick when the veteran went down in 2021 and again in 2022 when Carson Wentz struggled. He’s got plenty of experience as a starter, culminating in a 7–8 in ’21 and 5-3-1 in ’22. Heinicke even has playoff experience; who could forget his electric performance in 2020 against Tom Brady?
He’s a consummate professional and should provide excellent value as a learning tool for Ridder. He knows his role, which is a breath of fresh air, considering Marcus Mariota left the rookie high and dry a year ago.
“They drafted (Ridder) high last year for a reason,” Heinicke said. “They believe in him for a reason. He showed some good film last year. If something unfortunate happens to him, I’ll be ready to go. That’s kind of been my life the last three years. I will try to be the best backup I can to Desmond, try to help him any way I can.”
Heinicke is a nice insurance policy and one of the best backups in the league because of what GM Terry Fontenot described as moxie.
“If you don’t have the intangibles, I don’t care how much physical talent you have, it doesn’t matter. Both of those players have the intangibles,” Fontenot said. “We know the way they’re going to work, the way they’re going to compete.”
If you watched him almost lead an improbable upset over the Buccaneers in the playoffs, moxie is something you might agree with. He plays fearless and has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him. Expect him to be part of Ridder’s support system and a jolt of energy to the offense if called upon.
Photographer: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire