If there was any thought about the Atlanta Falcons still being in the market for their starting quarterback in 2023, head coach Arthur Smith may have put that speculation to bed this week. During a sit-down interview with NFL Media at the NFL owners meetings, coach Smith said that free-agent signing Taylor Heinicke will be his backup, while second-year signal-caller Desmond Ridder will be QB1.
"I thought he improved week after week," Smith said of Ridder's performance last year. "He was very effective on third and fourth down, and you saw those last two weeks the growth he made from his first start to really his third and fourth (start). We're excited about him."
This development shouldn't come as a surprise. While Heinicke is a very intriguing signing, the former Commander told reporters he's in Atlanta to be, "the best backup I can be to Desmond," per The Athletic. He understood his role before he put pen to paper on his new deal.
Atlanta selected Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Cincinnati. He was the second quarterback off the board last year. Smith made the decision to bench Marcus Mariota in favor of Ridder in Week 15, and the rookie went 2-2 as the starter to finish out the season. In all, he completed 64.4% of his passes for 708 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Both of his two touchdown passes came in the season finale vs. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson received the non-exclusive franchise tag earlier this offseason, the Falcons were thought to be a prospective landing spot. However, not long after the Ravens announced the franchise tag, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported the Falcons would not be pursuing Jackson. When Smith was asked about Jackson this week, he gave no comment, per NFL Media.