Despite being just a year removed from being one of the four teams to throw their hat into the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday that his franchise would not pursue trading for Lamar Jackson, the 26-year-old, former unanimous NFL MVP quarterback. Blank added that the Jackson situation is "very different" than Watson's last year.
"Different player, different time," Blank said Tuesday, via The Athletic. "You have a winner (in Jackson), a MVP in the league. There's no question he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
"Looking at it objectively, I'd say there's some concern over how long can he play his style of game. Hopefully a long time ... but he's missed five, six games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business."
Watson missed the entire 2021 season and was suspended for the first 11 games of the 2022 campaign as a result of his then-pending litigation involving allegations of sexual misconduct. Watson, unlike Jackson, has suffered multiple torn ACLs -- one in 2014 when he was at Clemson and one in 2017 when he was a rookie with the Houston Texans. His availability (or lack thereof) didn't appear to make much of a difference for Atlanta last offseason. Now, Watson's five-year, fully-guaranteed $230 million contract he signed upon being acquired by the Cleveland Browns appears to be more of an issue this time around since Jackson has been unable to come to terms with the Ravens' offers of less than a fully-guaranteed deal.
Blank also stated that quarterback Desmond Ridder, the team's third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has "continued to show us everything we need to and beyond that to the point" of feeling confident about Ridder as their starter entering the upcoming season. Atlanta also signed former Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $14 million contract this offseason to be Ridder's backup. However, neither the 30-year-old Heinicke nor the 23-year-old Ridder have anything remotely close to a NFL MVP to their name like Jackson earned in 2019.