marcus-mariota.jpg
USATSI

The Atlanta Falcons will begin the 2023 season with a different starting quarterback for the third consecutive season. On Tuesday, the club announced that it has released veteran Marcus Mariota. The former No. 2 overall pick signed a two-year deal to join Atlanta last offseason in the wake of the team trading away franchise mainstay Matt Ryan to the Colts

Mariota started the year as QB1 for head coach Arthur Smith, who also worked with the signal-caller during their days in Tennessee as part of the Titans organization. The 29-year-old started the first 13 games for the Falcons to begin the year, but they decided to see what they had in rookie Desmond Ridder coming out of the Week 14 bye and Mariota did not see the field again. In those 13 games, the Falcons went 5-8 with Mariota and he completed 61.3% of his passes, averaged 170.7 passing yards per game, and had a passer rating of 88.2. 

This decision to move on from Mariota does open up $12 million in cap space for a Falcons team that was already set to be among the teams with the most amount of cap space entering this free-agent period. According to Spotrac, Atlanta is currently situated with the second-most amount of cap space with just over $66.7 million. 

Marcus Mariota
WAS • QB
CMP%61.3
YDs2219
TD15
INT9
YD/Att7.4
View Profile

That amount of capital does allow the Falcons the ability to be major players in the open market to look for a new quarterback if the franchise decides that Ridder is not the answer heading into 2023. Last offseason, Atlanta was in the mix for then-Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, so it is conceivable to see it enter the QB trade market once again if a superstar becomes available. The Falcons also own the No. 8 overall pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, so that is another avenue to possibly answer that need.

As for Mariota, he enters what appears to be a pivotal period in his NFL career. He entered the league as a top draft choice of the Titans and was the team's starter for 61 of his 63 regular-season games played for the franchise. After he was benched for Ryan Tannehill in the middle of the 2019 season, Mariota signed with the Raiders as a backup to Derek Carr in 2020, and would hold that role for two years before finding his way to Atlanta. 

Now, it's possible that Mariota is once again heading down a path toward being a quality backup for another team in the NFL. Below, check out some of the interesting landing spots that could be available to the veteran now that he's on the open market. 

Kansas City Cheifs

The Super Bowl champs are in the need for a backup quarterback after Chad Henne decided to retire after the win over Philadelphia. Mariota could be a solid option for the Chiefs, who have needed to lean a backup at various times over the last few years when Patrick Mahomes has gone down due to injury. Mariota would put himself in position to be on a year-in-year-out Super Bowl contender and could end up being asked to come through in a big moment similar to Henne during this most recent championship run. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are in need of a quarterback following the retirement of Tom Brady. They could decide to go with Kyle Trask as its starter in 2023, but could use a veteran with starting experience as insurance. Mariota could come in and possibly even compete for the starting job in Tampa as the team may not be in the running for a higher-profile quarterback on the market due to their rough cap situation. 

Green Bay Packers

This one is predicated more on the idea that Green Bay moves on from Aaron Rodgers and rolls with Jordan Love as its starter for 2023. If that scenario plays out, adding a veteran like Mariota to back up Love wouldn't be the worst option. There's also familiarity between Mariota and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was his OC in Tennessee during the 2018 season.