A year ago, the Falcons made a play for quarterback Deshaun Watson. This year, they’re not giving much of a thought to quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Instead, second-year signal caller Desmond Ridder continues to be QB1 as the 2023 season approaches.
“He won a lot of games in college and helped Luke Fickell at Cincinnati really change the whole culture of that program,” coach Arthur Smith told Rich Eisen, via NFL.com. “And I certainly think that experience, you start that many games coming in helps, we certainly saw that early on as we threw everything we could at him. And he was impressive, and we felt that he was ready to take over at that time of the season, and I thought he did a nice job. Cool, collected under pressure.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to operate on critical third downs, fourth downs, two-minute situations, and I thought he’d done that pretty well. And certainly there’s a lot of things we all can continue to improve, but we’ve got a lot of faith in him.”
As discussed earlier this week on PFT Live, the Falcons seem to be smitten with Ridder’s intangibles — and also to be hopeful that the tangibles will follow.
It’s also increasingly clear that they’re not interested in Jackson.
“Look at the people that are willing to make trades, and they happen quick now, and I think any time any player, it’s our job to understand the markets that’s going on, and who’s available, who’s not, do they fit, and there’s a lot of things that go into it,” Smith said. “With those transactions, where you’re willing to spend in the salary cap, and there’s great debates, certainly makes your shows more interesting, and that’s great for the league, but at the end of the day you’ve got to do what you think is best for your team and what you’re building and how it fits into that puzzle.
“And like I said there’s a lot of great players and they become available it seems now more than ever. I mean look at the deals that were done a year ago and you’ve got a quarterback that’s on a huge deal a year ago that’s available now. And that was unheard of 20 years ago.”
Indeed it was. Great quarterbacks didn’t become available. And if they would have become available, they would have been snatched right up.
The issue with Jackson is both the financial investment and the trade expectations. The belief in league circles that the Ravens would match an offer sheet that Jackson signed with another team means that the Ravens don’t want two first-round picks for Jackson. So what more would they want, beyond two ones?
That doesn’t mean the Ravens haven’t thought about it.
“I mean everything that becomes available around the league, if it can improve our roster we discuss,” Smith said. “And that’s at every position, whether it’s the fifth corner, the backup gunner on punt, we’re always going to look to add, and that’s at every position. So those discussions happen all day every day, those are standard operating procedures, and I imagine most teams do the same thing.
“And I understand some players get more attention than the others, absolutely, you’ve got to understand what is going on, what are the trends, and see what’s available, so those are everyday conversations.”
But it’s not every day that an MVP is available to be acquired. The Jets currently are waiting to commit to paying Aaron Rodgers $60 million for one year, and to give multiple draft picks in exchange for a player who may not be in the league come 2024. For Jackson, it was and is and likely will continue to be crickets.
A year ago, the Falcons were ready to go all in for Deshaun, despite his off-field issues and a pair of ACL tears and zero MVP trophies. Now, they’re all in with the 74th overall pick in the 2021 draft.
That’s they’re business. But it’s easy to understand why some are asking whether teams that continue to ignore Lamar Jackson truly want to win as many games as they can — or whether at some level a deeper point is being made about the total investment owners are willing to make in franchise quarterbacks.