The Atlanta Falcons are not going to trade for Lamar Jackson, as they will be rolling with Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke in their quarterback room for this upcoming season.
In one of the most polarizing decisions of the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons are opting to go with Desmond Ridder as their starting quarterback, rather than pursuing Lamar Jackson in a blockbuster trade with the Baltimore Ravens.
During the NFL meetings, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith confirmed to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche, who cut his teeth covering the team back in the day, that Ridder would be the starter and Atlanta area native Taylor Heinicke would be serving as his backup. Smith has always made it a point to not discuss other teams’ players. However, having Wyche involved in this conversation is telling.
It is an incredibly divisive and bold issue to roll with Ridder, but Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot seem to be firm in their convictions of the second-year pro out of Cincinnati.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the Falcons officially punting on Jackson and going with Ridder.
Pros of Atlanta Falcons being out on Lamar Jackson, rolling with Desmond Ridder
Let the record stand I have been Team Ridder since his first NFL preseason game with the Dirty Birds. I knew that Marcus Mariota may have been more talented than him, but I saw what Ridder did at UC in college. He not only led the Bearcats to the New Year’s Six twice, but guided the Group of Five power to the College Football Playoff. They lost to Georgia one year and then to Alabama.
He may not have the arm talent of other quarterbacks in the league, but he has great leadership traits, plays with poise from the pocket, is not afraid to run, and most importantly, does not play with a sense of reckless abandon customary to Mariota that made me scream bloody murder at my TV set in crunch time every Sunday last fall. Simply, Smith and Fontenot do think highly of him.
I don’t think we need to devalue that. Talent is a wonderful thing, but so is being a leader of men. Ridder’s teammates are big fans of his. He is one of the guys, someone who the rest of the Falcons can look to in tight spots for guidance, believing he can put them in a position to win. He may not have the highest of ceilings, but he has not achieved all he can be as an NFL quarterback.
The biggest reason to be in support of him is what if he hits? Atlanta finds its next franchise quarterback in the third round on a rookie contract. With all that extra money you would not be paying to Jackson, you can field the best team around Ridder possible for the next three seasons, which is exactly what the Falcons did in free agency this spring. It felt so good to participate in it…
Had the Falcons wanted to microwave this and bend over backwards for Bobby Petrino’s greatest player, who just told the Baltimore Ravens to kick rocks, that would have just been par for the course, reeking of the immense desperation this woebegone franchise finds itself under. Michael Vick 2.0 may have worked, but the shelf life of Jackson in Atlanta probably would have been short.
So instead of trading the No. 8 pick and next year’s pick, possibly in the top 10 again, for maybe five good years of Jackson before he falls off a cliff physically, the Falcons could sign an elite safety in free agency in Jessie Bates III, extend the best guard in football in Chris Lindstrom and then add someone like Oregon star Christian Gonzalez to round out the secondary with a top-10 selection.
Above all else, Ridder needs someone to believe in him just like Luke Fickell did in college. If this undying love of all things Ridder blows up in the Falcons’ face, owner Arthur Blank may fire Smith and Fontenot after year three. He probably will not, but if Ridder bombs and this team stinks, they will have every reason and ability to be in the Caleb Williams or Drake Maye sweepstakes in 2024.
This is the first year Smith and Fontenot have not been in cap hell, so let them do what they want.