Falcons QB Taylor Heinicke Accepts Pay Cut

Last year’s QB2 carousel featured Taylor Heinicke collecting more guaranteed money than most reserve passers. Only Andy Dalton and Jacoby Brissett fetched more money at signing than Heinicke, who collected $6.32MM guaranteed on a two-year, $14MM deal.

Heinicke, who logged a few starts last season as Desmond Ridder struggled, remains with the team. The Atlanta native, however, is now tied to a much lower 2024 salary. Heinicke accepted a pay cut to stay with the Falcons, ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein notes. As Atlanta transitions to its Kirk Cousins era, its backup will carry a lower cap number this coming season.

The Falcons trimmed Heinicke’s 2024 base salary from $5MM to $1.21MM. With Heinicke’s cap number now down to $4.53MM, this transaction will save the team nearly $4.5MM in cap space. With many teams filling their backup jobs already — one of them (the Cardinals) doing so by trading for Ridder — Heinicke did not have a host of options if he declined the pay cut. As it stands, he remains on track to be Cousins’ backup.

As the Falcons transition to Zac Robinson‘s Rams-influenced offense, they plan to add another quarterback to compete with Heinicke for the backup gig. While Cousins has been one of the NFL’s most durable players during this period, his October Achilles tear does make Atlanta’s QB2 job a bit more important than it otherwise would have been.

Heinicke, who operated as the Commanders’ starter for most of the 2021 season and kept Carson Wentz on the bench at points in 2022, has 30 career starts on his resume. That includes a close loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in the 2020 wild-card round. Last season, the Falcons turned to Heinicke on multiple occasions. Despite showing tremendous confidence in Ridder during the 2023 offseason, Atlanta benched the 2022 third-round pick in Week 8 and again in Week 16. This led to four Heinicke starts. The final outing — a three-INT effort against the Bears — doomed Atlanta’s fleeting playoff hopes, swinging the door wide open for Arthur Smith‘s firing.

Heinicke, 31, only completed 54.4% of his throws last season. It would seem likely the Falcons use a draft choice to staff to add here, as Cousins is now tied to a $100MM practical guarantee. Cousins’ guarantees stretch into 2026. Heinicke’s deal will still expire after the season.

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