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Arthur Smith names Desmond Ridder as the Falcons starting quarterback

After months of speculation and some interesting comments from veteran signing Taylor Heinicke, head coach Arthur Smith officially named Desmond Ridder as the Falcons starting quarterback at the NFL meetings on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons have been busy this offseason, acquiring multiple starters in free agency alongside noteworthy draft capital thanks to previous trades. One area where the team hasn’t made a splash is at the most important position of all: quarterback. Atlanta has second-year prospect Desmond Ridder (who started four games at the end of the 2022 season), signed veteran Taylor Heinicke to a reasonable deal, and still has 2018 seventh-rounder Logan Woodside on the roster.

Naturally, that has led to rampant speculation about the team’s plans for the position—both in 2023 and beyond. Much of the discussion has centered around acquiring former MVP Lamar Jackson, who received the non-exclusive franchise tag from the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks back. For what it’s worth, the Falcons are reportedly not interested in pursuing Jackson.

That hasn’t done much to cool the rumors however, particularly with Atlanta continuing to meet with nearly all the top quarterback prospects in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Much of that had to do with the fact that the Falcons simply hadn’t officially named a starter yet—and really, had no specific reason to early in the offseason. We did get some interesting comments from Taylor Heinicke’s press conference, in which he stated pretty clearly that he signed with the knowledge that he’d be the backup in Atlanta.

Those comments may have spurred the Falcons to quiet the speculation once and for all. Head coach Arthur Smith, speaking at the NFL meetings on Tuesday, officially named Desmond Ridder as the starting quarterback per the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Despite the rumor mill and some pretty compelling reasons for Atlanta to be interested in acquiring a star quarterback and/or a top prospect in the draft, many of us here at The Falcoholic cautioned readers that the team didn’t really seem to be invested in that strategy. Instead, their moves suggested a “slow and steady” approach built around cleaning up the salary cap and holding on to their future draft assets.

Ridder had a storied college career, improving steadily each season and eventually leading Cincinnati to the first-ever College Football Playoff appearance for a non-Power 5 team in 2021. He threw for 3334 yards (8.6 YPA) with a 64.9% completion rate and 30 TDs with just 8 INTs that year, adding another 355 rushing yards and 6 TDs on the ground. Ridder finally had the keys handed to him in Week 14—far too late, in my opinion—but still managed to compile a 2-2 record with 708 passing yards (6.2 YPA0 and 2 TDs without a top weapon in Kyle Pitts. He also turned in an elite 9.62 Relative Athletic Score, suggesting he could be an even greater threat as a runner with some additional coaching.

With a Day 2 pick invested in Ridder and some encouraging-if-limited tape from the final games of the 2022 season, it made a lot of sense for Atlanta to at least give him a chance to win the job in camp. It’s more surprising that Ridder is being named the outright starter before the draft, which speaks to a level of confidence in the young quarterback that is sort of rare to see. I hope the team’s confidence is well-placed, because I’m a big fan of Ridder and need him to prove all my draft takes right. Also it’d be nice if the team was good too, I guess.

What are your thoughts on Ridder being named the starter?