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Falcons move quickly, sign QB Marcus Mariota to 2-year deal

Former Titans, Raiders QB will replace Matt Ryan in 2022 and perhaps beyond.

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Right after trading longtime franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, the Atlanta Falcons have signed the player they likely consider his short-term replacement.

The Falcons have signed former Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal, per the team. NFL insider Jordan Schultz says that Mariota had other suitors looking to sign him before he chose Atlanta.

Mariota, the Titans’ 2015 first-round draft pick, never quite lived up to the hype he had coming out of Oregon, his best season coming in 2016 when he led the Titans to an 8-7 record and piled up 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 95.6 percent.

There’s a connection to the coaching staff here that probably helped Atlanta get a deal done. Mariota overlapped with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith while in Tennessee, but he was benched for QB Ryan Tannehill in October 2019 and never got his starting job back after that.

He went to Las Vegas to rehabilitate his playing career with the Raiders after the 2019 season, but was only used sparingly in relief of the durable Derek Carr.

Mariota’s record off the field is as sterling as any in the NFL, and the Falcons were likely looking at his locker room reputation and leadership when they decided to bring him in. He’s an outstanding human being and was always noted for his leadership in Tennessee. Titans’ star wideout A.J. Brown attested to Mariota’s character right after the news broke of him joining the Falcons.

The Falcons aren’t likely to be very good in 2022, but Mariota should give them quality play and a steady presence on and off the field as they navigate an uncertain future. If the team does what we’re all expecting and drafts a rookie quarterback, they can count on Mariota to give the new guy guidance, just based on the way he’s carried himself in the NFL so far.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Mariota to play well in Atlanta, even if he’s not likely going to be the ultimate solution at the position. You could do a lot worse than Mariota as a bridge starter for a year or two, in other words, and if nothing else it’s nice to know the Falcons have a player they like in-house immediately after trading away the man who had helmed the ship for them the past 14 seasons.

The Ryan trade stings, but we welcome Mariota to Atlanta and wish him well. Our enjoyment of Sundays this fall are probably going ride pretty heavily on Mariota and Smith kindling some magic they weren’t quite able to find together in Tennessee, so we’ll hope they can find it and that the offseason brings more exciting days for the Falcons.