This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
BLOMSTERY GREEN, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons are in the market for a quarterback.
This does not mean the team will take one with the eighth pick in the draft on Thursday or even Friday on day 2, but general manager Terry Fontenot made it clear Tuesday: The Falcons are not done exploring the idea of adding another signal- calling their room.
It will not necessarily add a starter, but the team wants to have more than Marcus Mariota and Feleipe Franks as options on the position.
“We are not going to give away what we are going to do at eight or another pick, but we could get out of this draft with a quarterback,” Fontenot said. “We want to add to that space and we’ll see what happens.”
Atlanta went more into the quarterback discussion in March after the team tried to pursue Deshaun Watson when he was traded and eventually switched from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns.
As part of that process, quarterback Matt Ryan, who was still with Atlanta, first delayed the roster bonus that the Falcons owed him, and was then traded to the Indianapolis Colts. On the same day, the club signed Mariota – the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft of the Tennessee Titans – to at least replace Ryan in the short term.
Ryan had been Atlanta’s quarterback since becoming No. 3 overall in the 2008 draft. He started 222 games for the Falcons, completed 65.5% of his passes in 59,735 yards, 367 touchdowns and 170 interceptions, and was named MVP for the 2016 NFL season.
Fontenot said the team spent a lot of time looking at this year’s quarterback class as well as the one from 2021, when the team did not select a signal caller and signed Franks as an exhausted free agent. Franks took the team out of training camp and used the season as a backup for Ryan as well as experimenting with playing tight end.
Atlanta was present on most of the professional days for the best quarterbacks in this year’s class, including Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Liberty’s Malik Willis and Cincinnati’s Desmond Knight.
Fontenot said the first round is particularly difficult to predict this year due to the issues surrounding quarterbacks. Last year, for example, Fontenot said he felt Atlanta had the first pick in the draft as No. 4 because of the strong feeling that the first three picks would be quarterbacks, which they were when Trevor Lawrence went to Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and then Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers.
This year has several intrigues.
“It’s really hard to predict,” Fontenot said. “This is a very unique draft.”
Fontenot will not specifically comment on whether he believes there are quarterbacks with starting caliber in this class, even though he said there are future starters at each position.
“Right now we are evaluating the players,” Fontenot said. “Of course there will be starters coming out of this class. We will not know until three or four years with some of the players. At every position there are starters who are backups.”
He also said that Atlanta’s scout staff has looked at classes beyond just 2022.
He said he lives “in the now” when it comes to the draft, while also looking at the big picture, though he said the Falcons do not focus on who may or may not be targeted in 2023 if they have need it because it can change a lot in a year.
Fontenot also said he would not be disappointed if the team ends up bypassing a quarterback entirely in the 2022 draft because there are other ways to add to the position. For example, Atlanta signed AJ McCarron to support Ryan on Friday in last year’s draft after failing to select a quarterback in the first round.
“It could be in the draft. It could be after the draft. It could be through trade,” Fontenot said. “We will not limit ourselves to any possibility. We are going to turn every stone, and whether it is in the draft or not, we will add to that space.”
Coach Arthur Smith said he has more input on when the Falcons may or may not take a quarterback because of the seriousness of the decision to build the team. Ultimately, the decision would be a collaboration between Fontenot and Smith.
“It’s the one thing about football, especially professional football, it’s such a huge decision to make,” Smith said. “Especially if you have to invest, it’s the most important position in professional sports.
“For better or worse, the NFL and the position it’s extremely important to get this going, so yes, you’re looking at it. It’s a huge investment.”