The Atlanta Falcons aggressively pursued a Deshaun Watson trade in 2022, falling short because the Cleveland Browns offered him a fully-guaranteed contract. One year later, still without a face of the franchise, the Falcons aren’t interested in Lamar Jackson.
Jackson, who received the non-exclusive franchise tag, was allowed to begin negotiating a contract with teams once free agency opened. However, the 26-year-old quarterback hasn’t found any interest heading into April.
- Lamar Jackson stats (2022): 59.1 ESPN QBR (9th), 17-7 TD-INT, 764 rushing yards
Immediately after he received the non-exclusive tag, many assumed Atlanta would pursue Jackson. The franchise offered thee first-round picks to the Houston Texans for Watson last offseason and seemed like an ideal landing spot for Jackson.
Related: Atlanta Falcons mock draft 2023
However, Atlanta outright refuted reports of any interest in Jackson as soon as he became available. The Falcons are seemingly committed to Desmond Ridder, signing Taylor Heinicke as his backup quarterback for the 2023 season.
Amid growing frustration from the fan base over the club not making any obvious effort to pursue Jackson or show interest in him, owner Arthur Blank explained the rationale this week.
Appearing on 92.9 The Game’s Dukes & Bell explained why the team isn’t interested in pursuing Jackson and said the interest in Watson last year was “very different” to the circumstances now.
“Any time you have a player of that stature come to the free agency market, most teams would look at Lamar as an opportunity. If you look at our situation, we’re coming out of an era where 25 percent of our cap was tied up in one player. That put us in a position where we couldn’t do two things: We couldn’t build up and build out our roster not only for depth but for frontline starters. I think part of our recognition was that we had a lot to do in that regard.”Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on why the team isn’t pursuing Lamar Jackson
Related: Atlanta Falcons draft picks 2023
While Blank’s public backing of Ridder as the starting quarterback in 2023 might inspire some confidence in the fan base, his explanation for not going after Jackson may not erase doubts.
If Ridder proves to be the franchise-caliber quarterback the Falcons believe he is, Atlanta will have to spend a high percentage of their cap space on him. Ridder wasn’t a first-round pick, so he’s only playing on a four-year contract before the fully-guaranteed franchise tag would come into play.
In regards to the differences between Jackson and Watson, Blank suggested injuries are a part of the hesitation in pursuing and paying the former NFL MVP.
“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 5, 6 games each of the last two years. Each game counts a lot in our business.”Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on Lamar Jackson’s injury history
While Jackson’s durability is of greater concern than Watson’s, Atlanta also wouldn’t be taking any off-field risk with Jackson. The Falcons were willing to pursue Watson and make him one of the highest-paid NFL quarterbacks after he missed an entire NFL season and as he faced two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct.
While Blank didn’t acknowledge it, the biggest difference between Jackson and Watson might be personal relationships. Blank has a personal connection to Watson, with a family relationship that dates back years before he was even drafted. It allowed the Falcons to look past Watson’s off-field concerns and the lack of a personal relationship might be part of the reason Blank doesn’t want the Falcons to pursue Jackson.