What are the plans at quarterback in 2023? This is year three Falcons fans have been wondering exactly that. In 2021, the Falcons bypassed drafting a successor to Matt Ryan by instead drafting Kyle Pitts and restructuring Ryan’s deal. In 2022, news broke the Falcons restructured Ryan’s deal yet again. Mere hours later, the Falcons were a dark horse for Deshaun Watson. Things predictably went awry and Atlanta entered 2022 with free agent Marcus Mariota and third-round rookie Desmond Ridder.
Mariota certainly appears on the outs. Ridder improved through his shockingly limited playing time. Does that mean he is the unquestioned starter? The presumed starter? Was he drafted simply to be a cheap backup quarterback with upside?
We don’t have answers to these questions. The Falcons will be forced to add some level of quarterback regardless of where Ridder falls. And sorry, Lamar Jackson will not be a free agent, so we’re not covering him here.
Daniel Jones, New York Giants
I’m calling it now: Jones is the best available quarterback. He’s the right mix of age, recent improvement and potential salary to get a few teams making a run.
Jones is obviously relying on a surprisingly effective step in 2022, despite long-standing talent issues in New York, to find a starting spot in free agency. The Falcons may want to use that sweet cap space to help settle the quarterback position, even though Jones looks unlikely to turn into a 5,000+ yard passer at any point in his career. He looks like a scheme fit who would start Week 1, a bit like how Arthur Smith once took Ryan Tannehill out of free agency and turned him into a Pro Bowler. That implosion against the Eagles was rough, but it’s not hard to see Jones fitting in Atlanta.
- Geno Smith
- Jimmy Garoppolo
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
I have been and remain a Sam Darnold believer. It isn’t a popular position, even with Darnold’s employers. The team that drafted him traded him so they could draft Zach Wilson. The team that traded for Darnold only one season later traded for Baker Mayfield. Darnold has had a few really competent stretches, with the last one finishing our Carolina’s 2022 season behind a good defense and stout running game.
Darnold hasn’t done enough to earn a long-term starter deal, meaning he could come in reasonably cheap and compete with Ridder. You are still hoping that Smith can get a career year from Darnold, otherwise he’s just a backup with upside.
Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns
A more consistent, veteran quarterback to push Ridder? Brissett has all that. He was once a New England Patriots draft pick, was a backup for the Indianapolis Colts before starting after Andrew Luck’s retirement, played a handful of snaps for the Miami Dolphins, then started for the Cleveland Browns during Deshaun Watson’s suspension.
Now on the wrong side of 30, Brissett has shown he has the talent to fill in and win games, sometimes for long stretches. He’d likely do plenty to tutor Ridder, as well.
Baker Mayfield, Los Angeles Rams
Do I have a thing for former Carolina Panthers quarterbacks? Maybe! Mayfield may be short with a limited arm and an attitude problem, but he has been extremely effective at times in Kevin Stefanski’s similar offensive scheme.
It seems like Mayfield could rattle off another 3,500 yard season behind a heavy dose of the run. Like Darnold, Mayfield isn’t getting big money in free agency. He can compete with Ridder for starter’s snaps, but would be more likely to settle in as a backup.
- Teddy Bridgewater
- Tyler Huntley
- Gardner Minshew
- Andy Dalton
- Mike White
Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks
Remember him? Barely? Drew Lock was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round in 2019. During his stint in Denver he showed some extreme inconsistency. He has great physical talent but has struggled to put it all together in the pros. He was traded to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade but was supplanted by Geno Smith and never played a snap. Lock would provide reasonable upside here but you would probably want someone more experienced if Ridder was injured.
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders
Heinicke was pushing Washington to a potential playoff berth — then Ron Rivera unexpectedly plugged in Carson Wentz in the final week of the season. Things did not work out. I like Heinicke. He’s aggressive with pretty decent arm talent. He should also come cheap while providing above-average performance at backup. Another player you would be comfortable filling in for Ridder for a few games... but hopefully not much longer.
- C.J. Beathard
- P.J. Walker
- Blaine Gabbert
- Chase Daniel
- Cooper Rush