Desmond Ridder

Falcons QB Desmond Ridder To Start In Week 12

When the Falcons return from their Week 11 bye to take on the Saints next Sunday, Desmond Ridder will be under center. Ian Rapoport of reported this morning that Atlanta is turning back to Ridder with the expectation that he will remain the starter for the rest of the season.

Ridder, who started the Falcons’ first eight games of the year, exited the team’s Week 8 loss to the Titans to be evaluated for a concussion. While he quickly cleared the concussion protocol, head coach Arthur Smith said afterwards that he “didn’t think Des was right” and therefore allowed QB2 Taylor Heinicke to finish the game. Smith hoped to convey that Ridder was not kept on the sidelines for performance reasons, though Heinicke was named the Week 9 starter shortly thereafter.

At the time, we heard that the Falcons had not lost faith in Ridder, whom they selected in the third round of the 2022 draft, and were merely looking for a spark. It seems that the plan was always to reassess the situation during the bye week, and that reassessment has led Atlanta back to its second-year passer.

Heinicke suffered a hamstring injury during the club’s loss to the Cardinals last week, which forced Ridder back into the lineup. Rapoport makes it clear, however, that Heinicke’s injury was a low-grade one, so the decision to tap Ridder as the starter moving forward was not made for health reasons.

Although the Falcons are 4-6, they are just one game out of first place in the weak NFC South. And since Smith is in his third year at the helm and has missed the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, his job could be in jeopardy if his club fails to qualify for the postseason in 2023. Even if his seat is not as hot as some recent reports have indicated, he obviously will need to start winning soon to remain in Atlanta for the long haul. The fact that he is handing the keys to Ridder for a Week 12 battle with the division-leading Saints and for the home stretch of the season is something of a testament to his belief in the Cincinnati product.

“Sometimes you need a fresh perspective,” Smith said of Ridder this past week. “That’s what I think helped him. The reset, the refocus and working on things that I thought could help him, he’s done that.”

Ridder has flashed at times in 2023, but he followed up one of his strongest perfomances of the season in a Week 5 win over the Texans with a three-interception showing against the Commanders in Week 6, and he lost three redzone fumbles in the Falcons’ Week 7 win over the Buccaneers. He did play well when pressed into relief duty last week, completing four of six passes for 39 yards and piloting the offense to a touchdown that gave the Falcons a late lead.

For the season, Ridder has completed 65.4% of his passes for six touchdowns against six interceptions (which amounts to a subpar 84.1 quarterback rating, slightly below the mark he posted as a rookie). He has added 32 carries for 150 yards and four rushing scores.

NFL Injury Roundup: Saints, Watson, Heinicke, Thibodeaux

The Saints played much of the second half of their loss to the Vikings today without quarterback Derek Carr after the veteran passer took a nasty-looking hit from Danielle Hunter. It was announced that he was out for the remainder of the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder and that he was being evaluated for a concussion, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Further reports, provided by Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, claimed that while the initial belief is that Carr avoided a major shoulder injury, he will undergo more tests in order to determine the severity. Head coach Dennis Allen told the media that Carr was only held out of the game because of a concussion, per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, and refused to comment any further on the situation.

In Carr’s absence, former starter Jameis Winston performed admirably. He only completed just over half of his pass attempts for 122 yards and threw two interceptions, but he also threw the team’s two touchdowns in order to bring the Saints within spitting distance of the Vikings. Despite Winston’s seemingly superior effectiveness, Allen assured the media that, when Carr is healthy, there is no quarterback competition.

Lastly, veteran cornerback Marshon Lattimore left the game, as well, with what is believed to be an ankle sprain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. He will undergo an MRI tomorrow in order to determine the severity of his ankle injury.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was forced to leave the field at times today during the Browns come-from-behind victory over the division-rival Ravens. He suffered an ankle injury late in the first half of the contest and, though he remained in the game for stretches at a time, he was noticeably limping at times. After the game, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported that Watson was in a walking boot. Watson claimed that while “he doesn’t feel great now…(he’ll) be fine” and should be ready to go next weekend.
  • Yet another quarterback was forced to leave their game today due to injury when the Falcons‘ new starting passer, Taylor Heinicke, was forced to leave early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. This required Atlanta to return to former starter Desmond Ridder for the remainder of the contest. Ridder was fairly effective, leading the Falcons on a touchdown drive before failing to convert the two-point attempt that would’ve given the team a three-point lead. The team would go on to lose by those two points after Arizona kicked a game-winning field goal. This likely doesn’t change the team’s quarterback situation, if Heinicke is healthy enough to play, but hamstring injuries can be lingering and might open up more opportunities for Ridder.
  • In a blowout loss to Dallas this afternoon, Giants outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was knocked out of the game with a concussion, per NFL Network’s Jane Slater. Thibodeaux’s absence opened up some playing opportunities for Boogie Basham, who saw an increased role due to injuries last week, as well.

Taylor Heinicke To Remain Falcons’ Starter In Week 10; Team Will Evaluate QB Depth Chart During Bye

The Falcons made a switch at the quarterback spot ahead of their Week 9 game, inserting Taylor Heinicke into the starting lineup. The veteran will remain atop the depth chart for at least one more game, and a more permanent course will be charted during the team’s bye week.

Head coach Arthur Smith confirmed, via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, that Heinicke’s performance against the Vikings was enough to earn him another start. The latter took over for Desmond Ridder during the second half of the previous game, a move which Smith initially indicated was not performance-related. However, Heinicke was tapped as the Week 9 starter in an illustration of Ridder’s Year 2 struggles.

Ridder drew praise during his four-game run at the end of last season, and he entered the 2023 campaign as the undisputed No. 1 option. The former third-rounder has not progressed as expected, though, posting a passer rating of 84 and a 6:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Heinicke had an encouraging showing in the second half against the Titans in Week 9, though his follow-up against the Vikings (21-of-38 passing, one touchdown, one interception) left plenty to be desired as well.

Smith made it clear that during Atlanta’s bye week evaluations, one passer will be chosen as the starter moving forward (as opposed to a rotation at the QB spot or an ongoing weekly decision on whom to place atop the depth chart). Electing to go back to Ridder would mark another sign of confidence in the 24-year-old, who has two more years remaining on his rookie contract. Carrying on with Heinicke, signed to a two-year, $14MM deal in March, would on the other hand deal a blow to Ridder’s chances of earning another chance for the starter’s gig in Atlanta.

“That’s kind of where we’re at and everything that’s going on,” Smith said. “That bye will be a good time to assess, and you certainly don’t plan on it being so week-to-week after that. But we need to do everything we can to go get this win out in Arizona. That’s going to be our ultimate focus this week.”

The 4-5 Falcons sit in second in the NFC South despite ranking 25th in the league in points per game (18.4). Their passing attack has plenty of room for improvement with an average of 241 yards per contest through the air, and an uptick in production would help Atlanta’s postseason chances while also, potentially, quieting the criticism Smith has increasingly received this season. It will be interesting to see how Heinicke performs against a Cardinals team which will have Kyler Murray in uniform and how the Falcons choose to proceed after their bye week.

Falcons To Start Taylor Heinicke In Week 9

QB shuffling will not be confined to the AFC West on Wednesday. The Falcons are also shaking up their depth chart, with Arthur Smith indicating Taylor Heinicke will start over Desmond Ridder in Week 9.

The Falcons moved Heinicke into the lineup to start the second half. While Smith said that decision was not performance-related, the free agency addition will still receive the call against the Vikings on Sunday. Rather than Ridder-Kirk Cousins, that matchup will feature Heinicke and fifth-round Minnesota rookie Jaren Hall. Once again, Smith attempted to protect Ridder by emphasizing this switch was “just for this week,” via’s Albert Breer, pointing to the team revisiting this issue soon after. Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) added that the Falcons still have a “strong belief” in Ridder and that they are simply hoping for a spark with the switch to Heinicke.

Throughout the offseason, the Falcons placed their bet on Ridder. They did not pursue Lamar Jackson during his franchise-tagged period, despite the team being on the cusp of trading for Deshaun Watson in 2022. Arthur Blank cited an interest in saving money via a rookie-QB contract, and Ridder’s four-game starter sample last season became enough for the Falcons, who proclaimed the 2022 third-rounder the starter back in March. Ridder replaced Marcus Mariota in Week 15 of last season but will return to the bench.

Ridder has submitted uneven work as Atlanta’s starter, as he did during his smaller rookie-year sample. The Cincinnati product was in place during a 4-3 start but has a 6-to-6 TD-INT ratio and is averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. QBR slots Ridder 25th. Unlike the Raiders’ Jimmy Garoppolo benching, this might not be the end of the line for Ridder, who is contracted through 2025. But Heinicke will be asked to take over — as he was in both 2021 and ’22 in Washington. After Howell threw for 71 yards and lost a fumble in the first half, Heinicke posted 175 yards and a touchdown pass.

Being called upon to match up with Tom Brady in the 2020 wild-card round, Heinicke surprisingly held his own in that matchup. Washington had signed the former UDFA late in the season. The team then needed Heinicke again in 2021, when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down 16 plays into his Washington stint. Heinicke started 15 games that season and became needed once again after a Carson Wentz hand injury sidelined the Commanders’ handpicked 2022 starter. Ron Rivera stuck with Heinicke for an extended stretch, despite Wentz returning to full strength, and the team rallied back into the wild-card race after a 1-4 start. But Rivera demoted Heinicke once again near the end of last season — first for Wentz and then for Sam Howell. After Howell impressed the team during a Week 18 one-off, Washington cut Wentz and let Heinicke walk in free agency.

An Old Dominion alum, Heinicke ranked 23rd in QBR two years ago, when he threw 20 TD passes and 15 INTs while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. While Heinicke’s completion percentage dropped (to 62.2%), he finished with a 12-6 TD-INT ratio last season and led the Commanders to a 5-3-1 record as a starter. The Falcons gave Heinicke a two-year, $14MM deal in March. Although Jacoby Brissett received more per year, this marked the most money in total a backup QB signed for this offseason. The 30-year-old passer represented insurance, and the Falcons will go to that well early.

QB Notes: Taylor, Cardinals, Bucs, Ridder

Tyrod Taylor left Sunday’s game with a rib injury and needed to be hospitalized. The Giants announced they are keeping their backup-turned-starter in the hospital overnight for observation on his ribcage ailment. Taylor has a history of rib trouble, of course, as just more than three years have passed since the rib injection that ended his brief run as the Chargers’ starter. The pregame shot before Week 2 of the 2020 season resulted in a punctured lung. During Taylor’s one-season stint as the Texans’ starter, he missed a third of the season due to a hamstring malady. The journeyman came back as a backup, with Houston giving Davis Mills a shot to close that season.

Taylor almost certainly will be welcomed back as the Giants’ starter when he is ready, as the team pivoted to nearly run-only blueprint with practice squad elevation Tommy DeVito under center. Daniel Jones is not expected to be back until Week 10, as he continues to battle a neck injury. The latest coming out of that situation points to the well-paid starter dealing with a disk issue and weakness in his nonthrowing shoulder.

Here is the latest from the QB ranks:

  • The Cardinals have joined the Giants in playing a backup this season, and while they have pronounced Kyler Murray fully healthy after his December 2022 ACL tear, the team will once again hold out the Pro Bowler. Jonathan Gannon announced postgame Joshua Dobbs will start in Week 9. Murray remains on Arizona’s reserve/PUP list, having been designated for return on Oct. 18. The Cardinals do not have to activate him until Nov. 8, giving them one more game to keep Murray off the roster. Early reports indicated an early-season return would be in play for Murray, and Michael Bidwill doubled down on that in April. But the organization has proceeded cautiously with the former No. 1 pick, who has also needed to learn a new offense. It will be interesting to see if the sinking Cardinals redeploy Murray as their starter immediately upon activating him.
  • Baker Mayfield did not escape Thursday’s loss in Buffalo unscathed, with’s Jeremy Fowler noting the free agent pickup is dealing with a knee contusion. Mayfield is planning to play through this injury, but it has caused him discomfort. The Buccaneers QB’s MRI did not reveal any structural damage, however.
  • While Kenny Pickett was initially expected to return to Sunday’s Steelers-Jaguars matchup following his rib injury, via’s Brooke Pryor, the Steelers ruled out their starter and kept Mitch Trubisky in the game. Pickett left the game before the half but was warming up to come back; instead, the team shut him down. Benched early during his first Steelers season, Trubisky became needed on multiple occasions due to Pickett’s two-concussion rookie year. It is not yet known how much time (if any) the 2022 first-rounder will miss as a result of his latest injury.
  • Desmond Ridder‘s midgame exit did not stem from performance issues, Arthur Smith said (via’s Ian Rapoport). Ridder was evaluated for a concussion, but while he was cleared of a head injury, Smith said he “didn’t think Des was right” following the exit. The Falcons kept Taylor Heinicke in the game as a result. Heinicke logged one of the most active QB2 seasons in NFL history two years ago, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 and keeping the Washington reins the rest of the way. The Falcons gave the multiyear Washington starter a two-year, $14MM deal this offseason. Ridder has delivered an uneven season thus far, but the Falcons passed on chances to acquire a starter-caliber QB in order to keep him in place. With the team proclaiming Ridder the starter in March, it does not appear he is in danger of being pulled.

Falcons Replace Desmond Ridder With Taylor Heinicke At QB

In the midst of another disappointing offensive output, and after being evaluated for a concussion, Desmond Ridder has seen an interruption to his time as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Taylor Heinicke has stepped in under center for the second half of Atlanta’s Week 8 contest.

Ridder got the start once again, continuing the QB1 status he has had throughout his second year in Atlanta. The Falcons managed just three points in the first half of their ongoing game against the Titans, however, and Ridder suffered an injury which prompted a concussion evaluation. The 24-year-old has been cleared, but in spite of that the team has turned to Heinicke in search of a spark.

The latter signed a two-year, $14MM deal this offseason after a his three-year spell in Washington, one during which he had an extended run as a starter in 2021. At a minimum, the veteran of 33 games and 25 starts was acquired to provide an experienced insurance option behind Ridder in the event of missed time. Instead, performance issues have prompted a switch for at least the remainder of this week’s contest.

Ridder went 8-for-12 passing for 71 scoreless yards before receiving the hook. On the season, the 2022 third-rounder has put up a similar completion percentage (65.4%) to his rookie campaign, but his six interceptions have marked a regression from the ball security he demonstrated last year. His passer rating has taken a slight step back from his limited action in 2022, despite eclipsing 300 passing yards twice this year.

Expectations were tempered for Ridder and the Falcons’ offense given the uncertainty surrounding Ridder. The Cincinnati product took over for Marcus Mariota for the final four games last year, but questions surrounded his ability to lead an improvement in the passing game. Entering Week 8, Atlanta ranked mid-pack with an average of 236 yards through the air, while remaining strong in the ground game as expected. For now, at least, Heinicke will receive the opportunity to take charge of the offense as the Falcons look to remain atop the NFC South.

Heinicke has a 12-12-1 carer record, having established himself as a high-floor, low-ceiling option at the QB spot. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the second half today, and how the team approaches Ridder’s status as the starter moving forward.

Falcons Taking “Serious Look” At QB Prospects?

The Falcons have been doing their homework on rookie quarterbacks. According to ESPN’s Matt Miller, the Falcons have been “taking a serious look” at the 2023 QB draft class.

Despite their efforts, Miller believes it would take a “dream scenario” for the Falcons to end up with a top quarterback prospect, and the reporter believes the organization would only extend itself for Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. Barring a trade, there’s no chance those two QBs will be on the board when Atlanta is on the clock at No. 8. By that point of the draft, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis will also likely be gone, and the front office would surely trade back before going with someone like Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker. In other words, the Falcons probably won’t have the ability to make a choice at the position when it’s their turn to pick, but it sounds like the front office could pounce if an opportunity presents itself.

It makes sense that the Falcons would only make a push for one of their preferred prospects, especially since they used a 2022 third-round selection on Desmond Ridder. The Cincinnati product went 2-2 as a starter last season and will mostly likely lead a depth chart that also consists of Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside.

ESPN’s Michael Rothestein explored some options for the Falcons at No. 8, noting that an edge rusher, cornerback, or guard could all be in play. The reporter also wonders if the Falcons would be willing to reach for Texas running back Bijan Robinson, and he also questions if the front office could end Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter‘s potential fall down the draft board. Rothstein doesn’t expect Atlanta to select a WR with their first-round selection, with Miller adding that the position (along with safety) will be a clear emphasis for the front office during the second day of the draft.

Arthur Blank Denies Falcons Were Serious On Deshaun Watson, Addresses Lack Of Lamar Jackson Interest

Most of the reporting done regarding last year’s Deshaun Watson sweepstakes revealed the Falcons were set to land the then-embattled quarterback via trade, but the Browns’ $230MM fully guaranteed contract won out. Arthur Blank‘s stance now is the team was not especially close to acquiring Watson.

Asked about the differences between the Watson pursuit and the Falcons joining the rest of the QB-needy or borderline QB-needy teams in avoiding Lamar Jackson, Blank said staff conversations led the team to view Watson as a poor fit.

I think we explored the one last year, which is what our responsibility was,” Blank said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter. “We didn’t explore it deeply, deeply. We spent some time on it from a legal standpoint, personal standpoint, value standpoint on the player and a variety of things. Soon after we got into exploring, we decided it wasn’t a very good match.

… I think Lamar’s situation, and I don’t really want to spend a whole lot of time talking about players on other clubs, but Lamar’s situation, I think is very different. A different player. Different time.”

The Falcons joined the Browns, Panthers and Saints as meeting the Texans’ trade price, and a report the day Houston agreed to send Watson to Cleveland indicated Atlanta was “very close” to acquiring the Georgia native. Watson had narrowed his list to the Falcons and Saints — before the Browns’ contract offer — and the quarterback was believed to be recruiting Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette to Atlanta. That report and others later in the year viewed Watson as being Atlanta-bound were it not for Cleveland’s historic guarantee structure — one that has altered Jackson’s path.

The Texans only permitted the four finalists to meet with Watson had they offered satisfactory trade compensation, pointing to Atlanta being much farther down the Watson road compared to Blank’s assessment. The Browns’ Watson agreement has directly impacted the Ravens’ Jackson talks, with the former MVP long being connected to asking for Watson-level guarantees. No other quarterback is tied to a guarantee north of $124MM, and teams have attempted to make the Watson accord an outlier. Thus far, franchises’ efforts have been successful.

The Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder a few weeks after missing on Watson, and they are committing to the third-round pick as their 2023 starter. With Atlanta having not made the playoffs since 2017 and Ridder far from a sure thing, Blank’s club would seem to be one of the most logical Jackson suitors. No team has emerged as a suitor, and Blank alluded to Jackson’s run-oriented skillset as one of the reasons for the Falcons’ current stance. Jackson’s recent injury history (11 missed games since 2021) is believed to have affected teams’ interest levels, though his contractual demand has long been viewed as the main impediment.

Looking at it objectively, there is some concern about whether or not he can play his style of game for … how long can that last,” Blank said. “I’m not sure. He’s only 26. Hopefully a long time for his benefit or anybody that he’s signed with. But he’s missed five to six games each of the last two years. This is not like baseball and basketball where you’re playing 82 or a 182 games, or whatever baseball is now.”

Blank confirmed Arthur Smith, GM Terry Fontenot and Falcons CEO Rich McKay looked into Jackson. Blank was not involved in the evaluation. While Blank called Jackson “one of the top quarterbacks in this league,” the Falcons will stand down on an expensive pursuit and go with Ridder. The four-year Cincinnati starter worked as the Falcons’ first-stringer in four games last season. Ridder completed 63.5% of his passes, threw two TD passes and no INTs, but averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt.

Ridder’s rookie contract runs through 2025, and it will help Atlanta build its roster. Although Ridder will need to prove worthy of being a player good enough to build around, the Falcons came into free agency with a top-three cap-space figure. This standing came after the team ate a dead-money record from the Matt Ryan trade ($40MM) and also took on dead-cap hits from the Julio Jones and Deion Jones swaps.

During Blank’s run as Falcons owner, the team has authorized three big-ticket quarterback contracts — Michael Vick‘s 2004 extension and Ryan’s second and third accords. It appears Blank, whose team certainly appears to have been close to acquiring Watson last year, would like to build around a rookie deal for a while.

We just came out a period of time … last year we set a record for the most dead money in the history of the NFL,” Blank said. “In my 21 years as an owner, we had close to the least amount of cap room than we’ve ever had before. This year, we had a healthy amount of cap room. Not very much dead money, a little bit, not much.

Having compensation at 25% or so tied up in one player, we’ve lived through that. It definitely can put a lot of restraint on your ability to round out a roster and to have the depth on the roster given 17 games and the nature of this game, it still a contact sport … we need to build a team.”

Falcons HC Arthur Smith Addresses Commitment To Desmond Ridder, Lamar Jackson Interest

For weeks, teams around the league have had the option of making an aggressive pursuit of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, since he was issued the non-exclusive franchise tag. Very little interest has emerged regarding either an offer sheet or a tag-and-trade, however, including from the Falcons, a team many pointed to as a potential landing spot.

Atlanta was the first team reported to turn down interest in acquiring the former MVP, whose contract standoff with the Ravens has taken a number of public turns. The most recent of those, of course, was Jackson’s revelation that he has a month-long standing trade request with Baltimore, since the team has remained unwilling to meet his asking price.

One day after Jackson’s desire to be traded become known, the Falcons committed to 2022 third-rounder Desmond Ridder as their starting quarterback heading into next season. The 23-year-old served as Atlanta’s QB1 for four games to close out the 2022 campaign, taking over from veteran Marcus Mariota. Ridder didn’t put up eye-catching numbers in his audition, but he did enough to convince the Falcons to avoid the high cost (in both draft capital and finances) which would be required to land Jackson.

“He won a lot of games in college and helped Luke Fickell at Cincinnati really change the whole culture of that program,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show (video link). “And I certainly think that experience, you start that many games coming in helps… And certainly there’s a lot of things we all can continue to improve, but we’ve got a lot of faith in him.”

Ridder, the second signal-caller drafted in last year’s underwhelming class, went 2-2 in his rookie year. He has three more years of being team-friendly from a financial standpoint, which helps explain the Falcons’ decision to opt for a patient approach under center. The cap dilemma Atlanta would put themselves in – not long after clearing up a number of expensive contracts, including that of Matt Ryan – remains a key reason why they have shied away from Jackson.

“The belief becomes so much more transactional,” Smith said. “It’s our job to understand the markets that’s going on, and who’s available, who’s not, do they fit… at the end of the day you’ve got to do what you think is best for your team and what you’re building and how it fits into that puzzle.”

The Falcons currently have just over $21.5MM in cap space, which ranks sixth in the NFL. That comes after the team elected to add veteran Taylor Heinicke as their backup, a role he is willing to accept. While Jackson would offer far more in the way of pedigree than that duo, Atlanta remains in line with the rest of the league in turning their attention away from him during roster-building season.

Falcons Plan To Keep Desmond Ridder As Starting QB

Desmond Ridder supplanted Marcus Mariota as the Falcons’ starting quarterback late last season, and although pronouncements about Week 1 roles in March should not be considered full-fledged endorsements, it is clear the 2022 third-round pick will enter offseason workouts ahead of Taylor Heinicke for the gig.

Arthur Smith said Tuesday, “The plan is to start Desmond.” GM Terry Fontenot had previously communicated this plan to Ridder, who made four starts as a rookie after being last year’s No. 74 overall pick. Arthur Blank stopped short of endorsing the Cincinnati product as the Falcons’ 2023 starter in February, but the team has taken a step forward here in the weeks since.

The Falcons subsequently signed Heinicke to a deal that topped the other backup QBs’ money — for average annual value — but the ex-Washington starter’s two-year, $14MM deal will not lead to an open competition with Ridder this offseason.

We’re very excited to have Taylor in the room, a guy with experience who has won games in this league,” Smith said, via’s Scott Bair. “The chemistry in the quarterback room is important, as we expect Desmond to take the next step. But we also have a guy who can go in and win you football games and be ready to play.”

Heinicke has 25 regular-season starts under his belt, along with a playoff outing two years ago. He completed 64% of his passes with Washington, at 7.0 per toss, and went 12-12-1 as the team’s starter. The Commanders gave Carson Wentz his job back in December but installed Sam Howell as their starter for Week 18. The team expressed interest in re-signing Heinicke, but he said he chose a better Falcons offer, Josh Kendall of The Athletic tweets. Atlanta gave Heinicke $6.32MM fully guaranteed. Ridder completed 64% of his throws as well — at just 6.2 yards per attempt — but obviously does not have an extensive NFL sample size to judge.

Smith’s declaration affects Heinicke at present, and the former starter has said he is OK being Atlanta’s backup (Twitter link via Kendall). the Falcons have been connected to both Lamar Jackson and a potential first-round investment at the position. The team will meet with Florida’s Anthony Richardson soon and likely will host other top-flight QB prospects during the pre-draft process. The Falcons have not drafted a quarterback in the first or second rounds since their Matt Ryan pick (No. 3 overall) in 2008. They have only drafted two (Ridder and 2013 seventh-round pick Sean Renfree) since the Ryan pick.

As Fontenot and Smith go into Year 3 in charge, signing off on a Ridder-Heinicke QB depth chart when Jackson is available will likely not go over well with some Falcons fans. But the Falcons have not been connected to the disgruntled Ravens superstar, who is aiming for either a fully guaranteed contract or a deal that enters the Deshaun Watson guarantee neighborhood ($230MM). The Falcons were believed to have finished second for Watson last year; the guarantee led to Blank’s team standing down.

Being prepared to trade three first-round picks and change for Watson and then passing on Jackson altogether would certainly make for an interesting path, but as of Tuesday, that is the organization’s plan. Arriving just after the Browns pried Watson from the Falcons’ grasp, Ridder is now the NFC South team’s centerpiece player.