Falcons name starting QB amid Lamar Jackson uncertainty

The Atlanta Falcons have named a starting quarterback even as Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson remains available. 

Per Scott Bair of the Falcons’ website and Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith confirmed at the league meetings on Tuesday that 2022 third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder will head into springtime workouts as the team’s QB1. 

Ridder spent the bulk of his rookie campaign as a backup behind Marcus Mariota and logged just four regular-season starts and appearances. 

In total, the unproven 23-year-old completed 73-of-115 passes for 708 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

“I thought he made significant improvement from each start,” Smith said of Ridder and his 2-2 record. “We expect him to make another leap this offseason. There are always things you can work on, with lower body mechanics. He can get more comfortable — when you don’t change systems that helps, too. We expect significant growth from him.”

Earlier this offseason, the Falcons signed former Washington Commanders signal-caller Taylor Heinicke to be QB2 behind Ridder.

The Falcons have repeatedly been linked with Jackson since the winter months, but it is unclear if they would be willing to match his reported salary requests this spring or summer. 

According to Jason Ounpraseuth of NESN, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport said during a Tuesday appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” that Jackson “wants a lot of fully guaranteed money” that is “commensurate with his abilities.” 

To compare, the Cleveland Browns gave Deshaun Watson a five-year contract worth $230M in fully guaranteed cash last offseason. 

Interestingly, Bair shared on the Falcons’ website back on March 7 that ESPN’s Dianna Russini, NFL Network’s Peter Schrager and WSB-TV reporter Zach Klein all tweeted that day the Falcons will not pursue Jackson while he’s on the non-exclusive franchise tag. 

Even if Atlanta experiences a change of heart regarding Jackson, the Ravens could and reportedly would match just about any offer accepted by the one-time NFL Most Valuable Player. 

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