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Falcons QB Marcus Mariota (knee) likely headed to IR

Jun 14, 2022; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder (4) and Marcus Mariota (1) pass on the field during Minicamp at the Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Marcus Mariota is expected to be placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said Monday.

The move comes after what Smith said was a “performance based decision” to make Mariota the backup and start rookie Desmond Ridder.

“I have a lot of confidence in Des,” Smith said Monday as the Falcons returned from their bye week.

The Falcons (5-8) play the New Orleans Saints (4-9) this week. Ridder played well in the preseason and the third-round pick could nail down the position with a strong finish to the 2022 regular season.

“Obviously where our circumstances are, we talked last time about trying to get over the hump in some of these close games and where we try to push the offense,” Smith said. “We feel like that this is the best decision where he’s at, where the team’s at, as we prepare to go down to New Orleans.”

Mariota was not at the team facility on Monday but undergoing medical testing on his injured knee.

A move to injured reserve would effectively end the season for Mariota with four regular-season games to play, unless the Falcons win the NFC South division to reach the playoffs.

The Falcons signed former Tennessee Titans practice squad quarterback Logan Woodside to the active 53-man roster. Woodside will be active and serve as the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday.

Atlanta is 1-4 in the past five games, but Smith said it was time to turn to Ridder because of his progress over the past month. Smith did not want to make a switch if it meant paring down the offense.

“If I thought we had to restrict him, that wouldn’t be fair to this team,” Smith said.

Mariota is in the first year of a two-year, $18.75 million deal he signed in March as the Falcons moved on from Matt Ryan. He is owed a $3 million roster bonus in March that could invite the Falcons to release him before taking on his $9 million base salary for 2023.

The No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota spent five seasons with the Titans and played for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.

–Field Level Media