The Atlanta Falcons are turning the page to a new era heading into the 2022 NFL season, replacing fan-favorite Matt Ryan with a quarterback battle between Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. While the rookie might make a few starts this year, it seems the quarterback competition isn’t a contest right now.
Atlanta signed Mariota immediately after trading Ryan, reuniting the former Tennessee Titans quarterback with coach Arthur Smith. Based on the contract the former No. 1 pick signed with the Falcons, many assumed he would be the starting quarterback.
- Marcus Mariota contract: 2 years, $18.75 million
However, that expectation soon shifted. Atlanta selected Ridder with the 74th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, landing a player who some believed was a first-round talent far later than anticipated. With Ridder also one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in the draft, the rookie’s chances of starting in 2022 looked promising.
The details of Mariota’s contract also made it clear that the 28-year-old effectively signed a one-year deal. A majority of the $18.75 million total value would only be paid out if he is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2023 league year. So, the Falcons can cut him early next offseason without any real cap ramifications.
Despite those two factors working against him and Atlanta’s willingness to hold an open quarterback competition, it seems the battle to be the Falcons’ starting quarterback in Week 1 isn’t close.
Who will be the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback in 2022?
According to Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Mariota is “far ahead” of Ridder in the quarterback competition this summer. He also noted that the Falcons signed Mariota to be their starting quarterback this fall, in part because of his familiarity with Smith’s offense.
- Marcus Mariota career stats: 13,437 passing yards, 62.8% completion rate, 77-45 TD-INT
Mariota hasn’t seen extended playing time since the 2019 season with the Tennessee Titans. During that 2018 campaign, Mariota held a 7-2 TD-INT ratio but it came with a 59.4% completion rate. He also battled a nerve issue in his throwing elbow.
Realistically, the Falcons aren’t setting expectations too high this season. Mariota will start the first handful of games and then the coaching staff can evaluate where Ridder is at. Even if the rookie isn’t set to start by October, all it would take is being eliminated from playoff contention for Atlanta to make a change as it evaluates its future.