Marcus Mariota

Commanders To Sign QB Marcus Mariota

Widely expected to draft a passer with the second overall pick in this year’s draft, the Commanders are adding a veteran to the mix. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is set to join Washington on a one-year deal, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. The pact has a base value of $6MM and can be worth up to $10MM, he adds.

Mariota’s journeyman status will continue with this pact. Washington will represent the fourth different team in as many years for the former No. 2 pick. After his run as the Titans’ starter came to an end in 2019, he had a two-year stint with the Raiders. That was followed by one-year pacts in Atlanta and Philadelphia, with the Falcons being the only team to provide a starting opportunity during that stretch.

The 30-year-old’s play in Atlanta came to an end under unusual circumstances. Mariota left the team before ultimately undergoing knee surgery. His performance and health status limited him to a one-year accord with the Eagles, although he has landed more money upfront and a higher maximum value this time around. The Oregon alum played in three games last season, attempting 23 passes. Easton Stick – a familiar face for new Eagles OC Kellen Moore – could replace Mariota as the team’s backup, Pro Football Network’s Adam Caplan notes.

The Commanders have Sam Howell on the roster, having drafted the North Carolina alum in 2022. He was handed the starting gig ahead of 2023, and for a time the 23-year-old showed flashes of potential. Things took a turn for the worse toward the end of the campaign, though, and a new general manager and head coach are in place compared to the regime which drafted him. Howell has been mentioned in trade talk with the expectation Washington would add a veteran passer before drafting either Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels in April.

Having Mariota in place will no doubt lead to increased chatter regarding a deal sending Howell out of the nation’s capital. A number of teams have already made a move on the backup quarterback market, but the latter (who has two more years on his rookie contract) could still be of interest to teams looking for a developmental option. Mariota, meanwhile, will aim to lock down the backup spot in Washington with the potential to see playing time early in 2024.

Eagles To Sign QB Marcus Mariota

As teams continue to fill out their quarterback depth charts, the Eagles lost Gardner Minshew to their former offensive coordinator’s new team. They will respond to Minshew’s Shane Steichen reunion in Indianapolis by adding another Jalen Hurts backup just after midnight.

The Eagles have agreed to terms with Marcus Mariota to step into that role, Adam Schefter of tweets. The former No. 2 overall pick agreed to a one-year deal worth $5MM, with Schefter adding it can max out at $8MM.

While Minshew and Hurts’ skillsets differed, the Eagles will now have another dual-threat option to play behind Hurts. This is a similar strategy to the Ravens’ plans of recent years, and Mariota will head to Philadelphia coming off an extended run of starter work in Atlanta. That stretch did not end well, with Mariota leaving the Falcons — ahead of a surprise knee surgery — after his late-season benching for rookie Desmond Ridder. But Mariota started 13 games for the Falcons last season and helped the team rank third in the NFL in rushing.

Hurts has suffered injuries that have required him to miss time in each of his two seasons as Philly’s full-time starter. He battled an ankle injury in 2021, one that necessitated offseason surgery, and missed two games with a shoulder issue last season. This brought in Minshew, who has since followed Steichen to Indianapolis. Mariota does not bring much passing upside, but he is on the backup market for a reason. That has been his primary role in three of the past four seasons.

The Titans drafted Mariota back in 2015, but the Eagles — then led by ex-Oregon coach Chip Kellytried to trade up to that No. 2 spot for Kelly’s ex-Ducks pupil. Those efforts were unsuccessful, and Mariota ended up remaining the Titans’ starter until October 2019. Since being benched for Ryan Tannehill, however, Mariota has not finished a season as a team’s starter. He sat behind Derek Carr for two seasons in Las Vegas, mixing in occasionally as a change-of-pace run option, and was M.I.A. following Ridder’s December promotion.

Reuniting Mariota with ex-Titans OC Arthur Smith, the Falcons brought him in as their Matt Ryan replacement. Calls for Mariota’s benching rang out for weeks before Smith made that move, and while Atlanta’s passing attack was inconsistent, QBR slotted the 29-year-old passer 13th last season. Mariota threw 15 touchdown passes compared to nine interceptions but only cleared 200 passing yards in one of his final 10 starts. In one of the most obvious cuts in recent NFL history, the Falcons bailed on Mariota’s two-year, $18.75MM deal in February.

Mariota, who rushed for a career-high 438 yards despite playing 13 games in 2022, has made 74 career starts. He piloted the Titans to the 2017 divisional round, leading an upset over the Chiefs in Alex Smith‘s final Kansas City start, and Tennessee picked up his fifth-year option — despite injuries intervening in 2016 and 2018 — before its seminal Tannehill trade. Mariota will now join a fourth team, representing the latest domino to fall on the crowded stopgap/backup QB market.

Here are the quarterback deals to have been agreed to in free agency thus far:

Falcons Release Marcus Mariota

After a brief stint as a starter in the NFL once again, Marcus Mariota is set to move on to his next team. The Falcons announced on Tuesday that they have released the veteran quarterback.

The 29-year-old found himself in Atlanta last offseason after the Falcons moved on from franchise icon Matt Ryan. The former signed a two-year, $18.75MM deal to operate as a stop-gap option under center and attempt to rebuild his value. It marked his first opportunity to take on a No. 1 role since his time with the Titans came to an end in 2019.

The former second overall pick put up numbers roughly in line with his career averages in a number of categories across 13 starts this season. That came as little surprise given his age and previous shortcomings as a starter, along with the pieces around him on a rebuilding Falcons team. Atlanta remained committed to him through much of the campaign, one which contained the possibility of a postseason berth due to the weakness of the NFC South.

Things changed during the bye week, however, when the offense was turned over to rookie Desmond Ridder. That decision signaled the end of Mariota’s time as a No. 1 in Atlanta for 2022 and beyond, which itself suggested a release could be coming in the offseason. Ridder has drawn praise from the team for his play in the final four games of the season, though he has not been fully endorsed as the 2023 starter.

The other factor which pointed to Mariota being let go, of course, was the knee injury which led him to leave the team and ultimately undergo season-ending surgery. In a span of a few days, confusion reigned as it came out that he would step away from the team to have the chronic issue evaluated, then be shut down for the year. The decision to install Ridder as the new starter was said to be separate from Mariota’s injury, which will no doubt have an effect on his market.

The latter now joins Derek Carr and Carson Wentz as veteran signal-callers free to sign anywhere before free agency begins next week. While Carr has drawn considerable interest from multiple teams, Mariota is likely headed for a similar situation to Wentz in terms of eyeing another opportunity to compete for a starting job in training camp, or a high-end No. 2 role behind an established starter. With Mariota off the books, the Falcons will save $12MM in cap space, leaving them comfortably in second place in the league with respect to spending power as free agency approaches.

Latest On Desmond Ridder, Falcons’ QB Plans

The 2022 season saw the Falcons turn over their offense to rookie quarterback Desmond RidderWhile that has led to the expectation he will handle the No. 1 role moving forward, that has not formally been decided yet.

The third-rounder was one of several Day 2 selections during last spring’s draft, making Ridder part of the unheralded class of 2022 signal-callers. With veteran Marcus Mariota in place as the starter to begin the campaign, it was considered a matter of time before Ridder was installed as the No. 1. That ultimately took place during the team’s bye week, allowing him to play throughout the rest of the season.

Ridder went 2-2 in his four starts, putting up pedestrian numbers in terms of passing yards (708), yards per attempt (6.2) and completion percentage (63.5%). However, the former Bearcat went without an interception in his limited audition, something owner Arthur Blank noted as one of a few positives in his evaluation of the young passer.

“We’re very excited about Desmond Ridder,” Blank said, via ESPNs Michael Rothstein. “I think from the time he came into training camp, he showed great capabilities as a leader amongst the rookies and then amongst the vets… We’re committed to the position obviously, and we know we need a good leader there, and I think we have it in Ridder.”

Notably, both Blank and head coach Arthur Smith fell short of fully endorsing Ridder as their 2023 starter (in the sense that the Commanders with Sam Howell, for instance, have). Mariota is still on the books next year at a cap hit of $14.5MM, but Atlanta would see $12MM in savings by releasing him in place of more cost-effective competition for the starting role. The Falcons currently hold the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, though they have plenty of other priorities coming off of a second straight 7-10 season.

Smith added that he and the rest of the organization “feel[s] good about where we’re at” with respect to the QB position. With more moves very likely to be made in the near future, however, Atlanta will be a team to watch as they continue to re-tool this offseason.

Marcus Mariota To Undergo Knee Surgery

The Falcons’ swiftly changing Marcus Mariota situation will now include a knee surgery. The recently displaced starter will be shut down due to a knee operation, Arthur Smith said Wednesday (via The Athletic’s Josh Kendall, on Twitter).

This surgery will take place next week, and Smith confirmed Atlanta’s would-be backup is going on IR today. This is a bit more standard NFL fare compared to the previous Mariota story that surfaced. Smith said Tuesday that the former Heisman winner had left the team to have his knee evaluated.

“[The knee] is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s [Mariota’s] prerogative so …” the second-year Falcons HC said. “Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

A day after Smith said Mariota was dealing with a chronic knee injury, the report of the Oregon product leaving the team emerged. Smith made it clear Wednesday that Desmond Ridder leapfrogged Mariota regardless of injury. The third-round rookie is set to make his first start against the Saints in Week 15. It does not appear the Falcons and Mariota are on the same page any longer, but this was always viewed as a short-term stay for the former No. 2 overall pick.

Ridder’s promotion already reduced the chances Mariota would be back with the Falcons next season. This week’s odd drama, which Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes has confused executives around the league, certainly points to the eighth-year passer being elsewhere in 2023. Mariota’s malady comes out of nowhere, with Florio adding the Falcons have not included it on an injury report at all this season. With four games remaining, Mariota cannot return to Atlanta’s active roster during the regular season. The Falcons would need to make the playoffs for Mariota to dress again.

Given the events of this week, it seems extremely unlikely Mariota suits up for the Falcons going forward. Stranger things have obviously occurred, with the Rams’ Cam Akers developments providing a recent example of an imminent divorce reversing course, but Mariota was always viewed as a bridge to Ridder or the next Falcons starter.

Smith has now benched Mariota twice. The first instance occurred in 2019, when Smith was in his first season as the Titans’ OC. That October, Smith ended Mariota’s four-plus-season run as Tennessee’s starter by sitting him for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans are now in Year 4 of Tannehill as their starter, while Mariota has since bounced to Las Vegas and Atlanta. Smith reunited with Mariota and kept him installed as the Falcons’ starter longer than most expected, but that chapter has ended.

The Falcons can save $12MM in 2023 by releasing Mariota, who agreed to a two-year deal worth $18.75MM shortly after the franchise shipped Matt Ryan to the Colts. To save the $12MM, the Falcons must move on from Mariota before Day 3 of the 2023 league year.

Falcons QB Marcus Mariota Leaves Team

Desmond Ridder will be under center for the Falcons going forward, especially considering news that quarterback Marcus Mariota was eyeing a potential IR trip. However, there’s more to Mariota’s rapidly declining role in Atlanta.

[RELATED: Falcons Expected To Place Marcus Mariota On IR]

Coach Arthur Smith revealed today that Mariota has left the team to have his “chronic” knee issue evaluated, per Josh Kendall of The Athletic. It’s uncertain when or if the veteran QB will return to the Falcons. Kendall writes that Mariota was notified of his benching on Thursday, and the Falcons learned that the QB would be stepping away on Friday.

“[The knee] is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s [Mariota’s] prerogative so … ” Smith said (via Kendall). “Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

As Kendall notes, this isn’t the first time that Smith has played a role in Mariota’s benching. When Smith was the offensive coordinator with the Titans, Mariota was demoted to backup. Atlanta inked the 29-year-old to a two-year, $18.75MM deal this past offseason. If he’s cut following the season, the organization could save around $12MM against the cap.

Mariota has gone 5-8 in his 13 starts this season, completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He’s also added 438 yards and four scores on the ground. The decision to pivot to Ridder was “performance-based,” according to Smith, and the head coach also seemed to hint that it was always the team’s intention to eventually turn to the rookie third-round pick.

“We’ve talked about trying to get over the hump in some of these close games and where we’re trying to push the offense,” Smith said. “We feel like it’s the best decision where [Ridder] is at and where the team’s at. I wouldn’t have made this decision if I didn’t think it was in the best interest of this team, not only short term but probably long term as well.”

The team started preparing for Mariota’s absence earlier this week when they signed QB Logan Woodside off the Titans practice squad.

Falcons Expected To Place Marcus Mariota On IR

Coming off of the team’s bye week, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith confirmed reports that a new quarterback will be at the helm for the final four games of the season. In addition, though, Atlanta’s initial No. 1 is unlikely to see the field again during at least the regular season.

Marcus Mariota is dealing with what Smith called a “chronic knee injury.” As a result, he indicated, via the team’s website, that the veteran is likely to be placed on IR. Such a move would guarantee at least a four-week absence, and leave Mariota unavailable for the team’s final contests.

When speaking to the media, Smith made clear that recent decision to turn to rookie Desmond Ridder as the starting quarterback was made before the extent of Mariota’s injury was known. It was strictly for “performance-based” reasons, he said, that the Bearcats alum will take over and attempt to make a playoff push. The 5-8 Falcons sit one game behind the Buccaneers for top spot in the NFC South, and have a divisional contest against the Saints next up on their schedule.

“Desmond Ridder will be the starter,” Smith added. “We talked last time about getting over the hump in some of these close games and where we try to push the offense. We feel like it’s the best decision with where he’s at [and] the team’s at as we prepare to go down to New Orleans.”

Mariota signed a two-year deal in free agency to operate as a bridge starter while Atlanta searched for a permanent Matt Ryan successor. He had received a vote of confidence to continue as the No. 1 less than one month ago, but the team has struggled mightily in the passing game throughout the season. That has increasingly led to calls for a change, and now Ridder will make his first NFL appearances with the opportunity to make a positive impression in both the short- and intermediate-term future.

With Mariota presumed to be sidelined for the foreseeable future, the Falcons’ signing of Logan Woodside off the Titans’ practice squad over the weekend comes as little surprise. The former seventh-rounder has a connection to Smith from their time together in Tennessee, and will likely dress as Ridder’s backup as the team begins what could be a new era under center.

Falcons To Start Desmond Ridder In Week 15

Increasingly in the spotlight due to passing-game limitations, the Falcons’ quarterback situation will undergo a change when the team next takes the field. Atlanta is benching Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

The second quarterback chosen this year, Ridder has not taken any snaps as a pro yet. The Falcons will begin the Cincinnati product’s audition following their bye week. Atlanta faces New Orleans in Week 15.

While Mariota’s longest run as a starter since 2018 has resulted in a potent Falcons ground attack, the team has not offered much through the air. Mariota has not topped 200 passing yards since Week 8; the Falcons rank 31st in passing. They are 5-8 and 1.5 games behind the Buccaneers, who have used two game-winning drives to take control of the NFL’s worst division this year. A recent report indicated the Falcons would stick with Mariota as long as they were in contention. But Arthur Smith said following Sunday’s home loss to the Steelers everything was on the table at this position.

Atlanta pulled the plug on the Matt Ryan era in March, unloading its 14-year starter after seeing its Deshaun Watson pursuit finish in what was believed to be the silver-medal position. The Browns’ unprecedented contract offer — five years for a fully guaranteed $230MM — enticed Watson to nix believed plans to play in his home state and waive his no-trade clause for Cleveland. The Falcons traded Ryan to the Colts soon after, and Smith then reunited with Mariota via a two-year, $18.75MM deal.

Although Smith had benched Mariota midway through his first season as Titans OC, he designed his second Falcons offense around the former No. 2 overall pick. Mariota’s contract calls for $12MM in 2023. Of that total, $3MM is due via a roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2023 league year, Tom Pelissero of tweets.

Mariota, who backed up Ryan Tannehill for most of 2019 and served as Derek Carr‘s backup from 2020-21, does have a 15-to-9 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio and ranks 14th in QBR. But the Falcons used top-10 picks on pass catchers in each of the past two drafts. They have remained a run-oriented offense, putting the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier to work. That plan resulted in inconsistent years for Drake London and, especially, Kyle Pitts. The latter finished his abbreviated season with 28 receptions for 356 yards; this came after Ryan helped Pitts become only the second rookie tight end in NFL history to surpass 1,000 yards.

A four-year starter at Cincinnati, Ridder impressed as both a passer and runner at the American Athletic Conference program. The 6-foot-4 QB topped 500 rushing yards in three of his four Bearcats seasons and showed progress through the air as a senior. After failing to exceed 2,500 passing yards from 2018-20, Ridder threw for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns to help Cincinnati become the first Group of Five school to crash the College Football Playoff last season.

The Falcons stopped Ridder’s freefall at No. 74, selecting the experienced college passer ahead of Malik Willis and Matt Corral, and saw their draftee flash during the preseason. Atlanta’s delay in benching Mariota for Ridder confounded some around the league for weeks. The team, which took on extensive dead money to move Ryan and Deion Jones in trades, was not expected to contend this season. Were the Falcons in another division, it is worth wondering if they would have made the Ridder decision earlier. But they will begin this examination with four games remaining. While it is a bit later than most expected coming into the season, this stretch will help determine how the Falcons proceed at quarterback in 2023.

Falcons Considering QB Change?

Entering the season, the Falcons were one of a few teams which were expected to transition away from a veteran quarterback to a rookie at some point during the campaign. That has yet to take place, but the team’s circumstances could change during the bye week.

When asked about the situation under center, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said that “everything is on the table” following Sunday’s loss to the Steelers (Twitter link via Jeff Schultz of The Athletic). The options he and the coaching staff will weigh during the week off is allowing Marcus Mariota to remain in place as the starter, or handing the reins over to third-round rookie Desmond Ridder.

Mariota, 29, signed a two-year deal this offseason to join the Falcons after they moved on from Matt Ryan and came up short in the bidding war for Deshaun Watson. That allowed him to serve as a No. 1 for the first time since 2019, his final year with the Titans. The former second overall pick has put up numbers essentially in line with his career averages so far, while leading the team to a 5-8 record.

That level of performance led to questions around the league about why he had not been benched yet in favor of Ridder. Widely seen as a temporary hold-in as the starter, Mariota has overseen a run-heavy offense and averaged just over 170 passing yards per game. While the Falcons were able to tread water to begin the year, they have now lost four of their last five.

Nevertheless, Smith indicated just two weeks ago that Mariota would remain the starter as long as Atlanta was in playoff contention. Given the landscape of the NFC South, that may remain the case for several more weeks if the Buccaneers are unable to pull away with their division lead. With four games remaining on the schedule, though, the potential of a postseason berth could add urgency to a swap under center.

Ridder led the Bearcats to an historic CFP playoff appearance last season, but was a member of the underwhelming 2022 class of QB prospects. While that has led to questions about his NFL ceiling, the time for him to begin answering those questions may be coming in the near future.

Falcons To Start Marcus Mariota At QB While In Playoff Hunt

After back-to-back losses featuring subpar performances from quarterback Marcus Mariota, there has been some speculation that Atlanta could bench the 2015 first-rounder in favor of third-round rookie Desmond Ridder. However, as long as the Falcons remain in the playoff hunt, they will continue to deploy Mariota under center, as Ian Rapoport of reports.

At 4-6, Atlanta’s postseason hopes are a function of the weak NFC South. The club is just one game back of the Buccaneers for the division lead, and with the playoffs still within reach, it is believed that benching Mariota would send the wrong message to the locker room. Indeed, when asked about the Falcons’ quarterback situation this week, head coach Arthur Smith said, “there is no situation. There was never a situation — ever.”

While it is true that Atlanta’s run-heavy offense minimizes the impact of recent Day 1 draftees Kyle Pitts and Drake London, it is also worth mentioning that, prior to the current two-game losing streak, Mariota had posted QB ratings of over 100.0 in three straight contests. His own rushing ability is also key to the team’s offense, as he has carried the ball 63 times for 347 yards (5.5 YPC), three touchdowns, and 23 first downs. He is largely giving the Falcons what they expected when they signed him as a bridge option this offseason, and on the balance, he has helped keep Atlanta competitive despite an ugly salary cap situation that has led to an overall talent shortage.

That is not to say that the team is unhappy with Ridder’s development. According to Rapoport, the Falcons — who were confident enough in Ridder to install him as Mariota’s backup to start the season and forego a veteran option — have been quite pleased with how the Cincinnati product has progressed. If the team falls out of contention in the coming weeks, Smith may choose to give the rookie passer his first regular season snaps.

Until then, however, Mariota will remain the QB1. He will look to right the ship on Sunday against the 3-7 Bears.