Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Naturally, we start at the top—with quarterback. Atlanta’s QB room will look drastically different in 2022, and there’s a legitimate competition for the starting job taking shape. Will it be the steady veteran in Marcus Mariota, or the intriguing rookie in Desmond Ridder?
Let’s begin with Marcus Mariota.
QB Marcus Mariota
Contract: $4.25M cap hit in 2022, under contract through 2023
Career Production: 74 games played, 61 games started | 1,128/1,795 (62.8%) for 13,437 yards (7.5 YPA), 77 TD, 45 INT | 264 carries for 1,574 yards (6.0 YPC), 13 TD
2021 Production: 10 games played | 1/2 (50%) for 4 yards (2.0 YPA) | 13 carries for 87 yards (6.7 YPC), 1 TD | 58.2 overall PFF grade
The Falcons experienced a major shakeup at quarterback in 2022. For the first time since 2008, Atlanta’s franchise will not be helmed by Matt Ryan. That will be a major loss for this team, but the separation made sense given the Falcons’ need to embrace a rebuild and the late stage of Ryan’s career. Hopefully both sides will benefit in the long run. In Ryan’s place, the team brought in a former #2 overall pick: Marcus Mariota.
In terms of bridge starters, Atlanta could do a lot worse than Mariota. He’s just 28 (will be 29 during the season) and posted a winning record as a starter in three of five seasons in Tennessee. Mariota is a terrific athlete and, theoretically, a better fit for Arthur Smith’s scheme. His mobility should be an asset considering the state of Atlanta’s offensive line—which may return all five starters from a dismal 2021 campaign.
Mariota has legitimate upside and a better chance than most to actually offer competent quarterback play. The issue with Mariota is his durability, as he’s failed to ever start all 16 (now 17) games in a season during his career. Despite all that, a reunion with Arthur Smith and some improved injury luck could produce a quality season for Mariota in 2022. He’s also a bargain this year at just $4.25M and what essentially amounts to a “team option” in 2023. If Atlanta elects to go in a different direction, Mariota can be released for $12M in cap savings.
Projection: Marcus Mariota is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job and should be able to provide steady, competent play for the Falcons in 2022. While it’s possible he could have a career resurgence in Atlanta and stick around past this season, his injury history and the presence of an intriguing rookie in Desmond Ridder seem to suggest that it’s unlikely.