Marcus Mariota

Falcons Name Marcus Mariota Starting QB

This will not qualify as particularly surprising news, but the Falcons have named Marcus Mariota their starting quarterback. On the first day of training camp earlier this week, quarterbacks coach Charles London confirmed that Mariota will serve as Atlanta’s QB1, while third-round rookie Desmond Ridder will begin his pro career as Mariota’s backup.

“Obviously, we’ve got a plan for each of them,” London said. “Marcus is the starter. That’s how we’re going into this thing” (via Josh Kendall of The Athletic (subscription required)).

Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the Titans in the 2015 draft, showed some promise during his five years in Tennessee, including a 2016 campaign in which he threw for 26 TDs against nine interceptions and rushed for 349 yards and a pair of scores. But Ryan Tannehill supplanted Mariota as the Titans’ starter midway through the 2019 season, and Mariota has spent the last two years with the Raiders as Derek Carr‘s backup.

During that time, he saw extended action in only one game, a Week 15 contest in 2020 in which he completed 17 of 28 passes for 226 yards, including a touchdown and an interception, and rushed nine times for 88 yards and a score. That performance was enough to generate trade interest the following offseason, but the structure of Mariota’s contract prevented a deal from being consummated. He ultimately remained with Las Vegas on a reworked pact, and he wound up throwing just two passes in 2021 (though he was occasionally brought in on special packages and rushed 13 times for 87 yards and a TD).

After trading franchise icon Matt Ryan to the Colts in March, the Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year, $18.75MM contract. Even after that signing, the club was said to be considering using its No. 8 overall pick on a collegiate passer, though Atlanta chose to wait until the third round to select a QB. Ridder completed just under 65% of his passes for 30 TDs and eight picks in 2021 — a season in which he took Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff — and has the chance to become the long-term answer for Atlanta under center.

He may be working with the second team as he acclimates to the NFL, but he will be getting plenty of reps. We heard last month that the Falcons would be deploying Feleipe Franks, the only other quarterback on the roster, in more of a hybrid role, and Kendall confirmed that Franks will practice as a tight end for most of camp.

Falcons Notes: QB Camp Reps, RB, NT Competitions

For the first time since 2008, the Falcons will have a starting quarterback not named Matt Ryan when the upcoming season begins. The team added Marcus Mariota as a short-term solution at the position, then drafted Desmond Ridder as a long-term option to succeed him.

The former has starting experience dating back to his time with the Titans, and will look to establish himself as a No. 1 again after two years as a backup with the Raiders. The latter, meanwhile, had an historic career at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to the CFP playoffs in 2021. Their lack of a track record at the NFL level made the Falcons a candidate to add a camp arm, but the team is investing fully in their top two passers.

As detailed by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, training camp reps will be split between Mariota and Ridder, with Feleipe Franks primarily focusing on his transition to TE. “When you look at it in terms of the quarterbacks for live periods of practice, there is not a lot [of] taxing amount of periods where the ball is being thrown,” said offensive coordinator Dave Ragone when speaking about a concentrated workload for the pair. With little expected of the team in 2022, dividing the reps only two ways is a sensible step for the Falcons as they search for a new franchise signal-caller.

Here are a few other notes from the Peach State, both from Ledbetter’s positional breakdowns:

  • The Falcons ranked 31st in the league in rushing last season, so their attempts at improving their ground game will be the subject of much attention this year. Cordarrelle Patterson is set to return, after he totalled a career-best 1,166 scrimmage yards in 2021. He will not enter camp as the undisputed No. 1 back, however; RBs coach Mike Pitre said that there will be a “wide open” competition involving the veteran Swiss Army knife, free agent signing Damien Williamsand younger options like rookie Tyler Allgeier and Avery Williamswho is converting from cornerback. Head coach Arthur Smith did add, however, that the Falcons will “continue to try to enhance ” Patterson’s overall role in the offense.
  • On the defensive side of the ball, nose tackle will be another positional battle to watch. Either Vincent Taylor 0r Anthony Rush will earn a starting spot alongside Grady Jarrett in the heart of the d-line. Eddie Goldman was the most experienced option for a first-team role until his unexpected retirement decision was confirmed earlier this week. Taylor and Rush have each bounced around to multiple teams in their careers, but will have an opportunity for significant snaps in their debut seasons with the Falcons, who ranked 27th against the run in 2021.

Falcons Eyeing QBs With No. 8 Pick?

The post-Matt Ryan era has started in Atlanta, and while the organization may have inked Marcus Mariota to a deal, there’s a good chance the organization selects a quarterback in the upcoming draft. League sources expect the Falcons to select a signal-caller with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

[RELATED: QB Matt Corral To Visit Five Teams]

Who would the Falcons ultimately select with that pick? Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter), the Falcons are a potential landing spot for Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. The reporter notes that most scouts believe Willis is more of a project and won’t be ready to start during his rookie campaign, which would make him an ideal pairing with someone like Mariota.

Of course, with a handful of QB-needy teams ahead of them in the draft (including the Panthers at No. 6, who Fowler also mentions as a suitor for Willis), the Falcons front office can’t put all of their eggs in one basketball in pursuit of the Liberty QB. We heard recently that the team met with Ole Miss alum Matt Corral. North Carolina’s Sam Howell was the third QB to earn a top-3o visit with the Falcons.

After losing out on Deshaun Watson and trading away Ryan, the Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year contract. The former Titan and Raider is in line to start for the first time since 2019, but he would likely provide a short-term solution at the position at best. Mariota went 2-4 during his six-game stint as Tennessee’s starter in ’19, although he did toss seven touchdowns vs. only two interceptions.

Contract Details: Miller, Robinson, Reddick, Mariota, Jensen, Collins, Brown, Norwell

Here are the latest details from contracts recently agreed to across the league, starting with the Bills’ big-ticket deal for a future Hall of Fame edge rusher:

  • Von Miller, LB (Bills): Six years, $120MM. Miller’s deal includes $51.44MM guaranteed. The Bills will keep Miller’s early base salaries low; he is tied to $1.1MM (2022) and $1.3MM (’23) salaries, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. Miller has a $13.34MM roster bonus due in 2023, and Albert Breer of SI.com tweets his deal includes $50MM over the first two years. His $17.1MM, $19.6MM and $29.6MM salaries from 2025-27 are nonguaranteed.
  • Allen Robinson, WR (Rams): Three years, $46.5MM. Robinson is attached to guaranteed base salaries of $1.5MM and $10MM in 2022 and ’23, respectively, per Wilson (on Twitter). The contract includes a $5.75MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. If Robinson surpasses 2,200 receiving yards in the regular season and playoffs during the 2022 or ’23 seasons, Wilson adds his 2024 year will void (Twitter link). Only Cooper Kupp has accomplished that feat in a season.
  • Haason Reddick, DE (Eagles): Three years, $45MM. Reddick, who is guaranteed $30MM, is tethered to base salaries of just $1MM and $1.1MM in 2022 and 2023, per Wilson (on Twitter). His $13.75MM 2024 salary is nonguaranteed. The Eagles tacked three void years onto the deal for cap purposes. Reddick will collect a $13.7MM roster bonus in 2023.
  • Ryan Jensen, C (Buccaneers): Three years, $39MM. Jensen’s deal includes $26.5MM guaranteed. The Bucs center is tied to a $1.5MM base salary in 2022 and a $12.5MM base in 2023, Wilson tweets. Jensen’s 2023 salary is partially guaranteed at signing; it will become fully guaranteed if he is on Tampa Bay’s roster by Day 5 of the 2023 league year. A $1.5MM 2024 roster bonus resides in this deal as well. The Bucs included two void years here for cap purposes.
  • La’el Collins, T (Bengals): Three years, $30MM. The contract is closer to a two-year, $20MM pact, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, with Year 3 being included for cap purposes (Twitter link). It appears Cincinnati has dipped into the void-year realm, though is not clear just yet how this contract is structured.
  • Marcus Mariota, QB (Falcons): Two years, $18.75MM. This deal veers closer to a one-year pact. Mariota is due $6.75MM in 2022, but NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero notes (on Twitter) a $12MM 2023 option is included in this contract. A key point for Mariota’s Atlanta future will arrive on Day 5 of the 2023 league year, when a $3MM roster bonus is due.
  • Trent Brown, T (Patriots): Two years, $13MM. Brown will see $4MM guaranteed, Pelissero tweets. The veteran right tackle can earn up to $22MM on the contract.
  • Andrew Norwell, G (Commanders): Two years, $10MM. Norwell will collect $5.7MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. He is set to earn $1.2MM and $3.54MM in base salary, with Wilson adding Washington added three void years onto this deal.

Falcons, QB Marcus Mariota Agree To Deal

Not long after Marcus Mariota-to-Atlanta smoke emerged, the former No. 2 overall pick has agreed to reunite with Arthur Smith. Mariota agreed to a two-year Falcons deal, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweets that the two-year pact is worth $18.75MM. The Falcons have already announced the deal.

The Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts earlier Monday, giving them a quarterback need for the first time since 2008. Mariota is certainly not a lock to be a long-term starter in Atlanta, but the former Tennessee draftee has experience with Smith and looks set to be Ryan’s immediate successor.

Smith was with the Titans throughout Mariota’s five-year Nashville tenure, but he coached the team’s tight ends for the bulk of Mariota’s run. During Smith’s first offensive coordinator season, he benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans then let Mariota join the Raiders in free agency in 2020. The former Heisman Trophy winner did not supplant Derek Carr in Las Vegas, but he has a clear path to being Atlanta’s starter next season.

A broken leg sustained on Christmas Eve 2016 altered Mariota’s Titans trajectory. The ex-Oregon phenom was coming off a season in which he threw 26 touchdown passes compared to just nine interceptions, while adding 349 rushing yards and two TDs. He did not reach 26 TD passes combined from 2017-18, as the Titans shifted to a more run-oriented attack. Mariota did guide Tennessee to the 2017 playoffs, where they upset the Chiefs after erasing a three-score deficit, but injuries in 2018 provided more hurdles. Elbow trouble led to Mariota missing time in 2018, and he was ineffective for the 2019 Titans, who surged to the playoffs behind Tannehill.

Mariota, 28, did not make any starts with the Raiders but did provide off-the-bench production as an injury replacement or a gadget running option behind Carr. Smith’s former pupil will give the Falcons a dual-threat option they did not have with Ryan. Of course, it remains to be seen how much Smith can coax from Mariota through the air.

Falcons Eyeing Marcus Mariota?

One of the domino effects of the Matt Ryan trade may already be taking shape. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Falcons are “expected to pursue” free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota (Twitter link). 

[RELATED: Colts, Falcons Complete Ryan Trade]

Mariota, 29, played under Falcons head coach Arthur Smith when he was the offensive coordinator of the Titans. A No. 2 pick of Tennessee in 2015, Mariota spent the first five years of his career there. He compiled a 29-32 record in Nashville, with his best passing season coming in 2016 (3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns).

While the former Oregon Duck was consistent as a Titan, he never developed into the franchise signal-caller he was drafted to become. His days became numbered when Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter midway through the 2019 season. The former Dolphin was a Pro Bowler that season, and has a 30-13 overall record with the Titans.

In 2020, Mariota signed with the Raiders on a two-year deal. He didn’t register a start in his time there, coming onto the field for a total of 89 snaps while the team remained committed to Derek Carr as the starter. With an opening in Atlanta, Mariota would have a clear path back to being a starter.

At present, the Falcons’ QB room consists of Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks. The former has bounced around to various backup and practice squad roles, while the latter joined the team last year as a UDFA. Mariota would in all likelihood join the team at the top of the depth chart if he were to sign. As a result of trading away Ryan, the team incurred an NFL-record $40.5MM in dead money, but nevertheless created just over $9MM in savings. Those funds could go towards a temporary option such as Mariota, though the team is a strong candidate to use their first round pick (eighth overall) on a quarterback.

QB Rumors: Trubisky, Winston, Taylor, Lock

The Giants’ new head coach, Brian Daboll, worked with free agent quarterback Mitchell Trubisky when they were both with the Bills last year (Daboll as offensive coordinator). Well, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN, Daboll has interest in luring Trubisky to join him in New York.

There’s been some interest in bringing Trubisky to Pittsburgh, as well, where a path to starting is much more clear. If Daboll’s familiarity with the sixth-year quarterback is able to attract him to the Giants, though, the head coach sees the potential for him to mirror the results of Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. A quick refresher: Tannehill arrived in Nashville in 2019 in a trade with the Dolphins. Tannehill started the season in the role of back up quarterback to the incumbent starter Marcus Mariota. After a 2-4 start to the season, Mariota was benched in favor of Tannehill, who went 7-3 for the rest of the year and led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.

Daboll holds hope that, while Daniel Jones may retain the starting job in New York, if the need presents itself, Trubisky could provide the same effect as Tannehill.

Some other notes concerning quarterbacks around the league:

  • Another option the Steelers could be looking into, Jameis Winston is looking like the most likely starting quarterback for the Saints in 2022, according to Graziano. With Teddy Bridgewater headed to free agency, a return to New Orleans could be possible, and Winston may see some opportunities in testing the free agent market, himself. But Winston is a locker room favorite that saw success on the Saints before tearing his ACL midseason last year.
  • Tyrod Taylor lost the starting job in Houston last year to rookie quarterback Davis Mills. With Mills expected to return to the starting position next year, the Texans do have interest in bringing Taylor back in the role of back up quarterback, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Taylor has chased starting jobs throughout his career and has seen some success at times. He may search for a new opportunity to start, but, if not, Taylor has shown professionalism several times in back up roles mentoring young quarterbacks.
  • After receiving Drew Lock in the Russell Wilson-trade with the Broncos, Seattle is considering the elements to Lock’s lack of success in Denver, according to Fowler. Some believe that the revolving door of offensive coordinators contributed to his struggles. Seattle is analyzing whether they believe in Pete Carroll‘s ability to develop Lock, who showed glimpses of promise in his early appearances as a Bronco, or whether they need to make moves for Deshaun Watson to win now.

Colts Interested in Marcus Mariota, Kirk Cousins?

We have not heard much about free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason, save for some speculation based more on perceived fit than anything else. Now, however, we have something more concrete.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (subscription required) writes that Mariota is generating the most buzz as the Colts’ next QB now that Indianapolis has traded Carson Wentz to the Commanders. Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the Titans in the 2015 draft, showed some promise during his five years in Tennessee, including a 2016 campaign in which he threw for 26 TDs against nine interceptions and rushed for 349 yards and a pair of scores. But Ryan Tannehill supplanted Mariota as the Titans’ starter midway through the 2019 season, and Mariota has spent the last two years with the Raiders as Derek Carr‘s backup.

He garnered some trade interest last offseason, and it appears as if the structure of his Las Vegas contract was the only real obstacle to a deal. Quarterback-needy teams likely view him as at least a capable bridge starter to a younger prospect, and Graziano’s colleague, Jeremy Fowler, reports that Mariota is open to such a scenario.

The Colts have also been connected to the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Eagles’ Gardner Minshew in recent days, though obviously signing Mariota would allow them to acquire a Wentz replacement without sacrificing any draft capital. Interestingly, Graziano also says some in the industry believe Indy could be a landing spot for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Fowler reports that the Vikings are truly torn on what to do with Cousins. Extending him would mean committing more years and dollars to a player who has only led the team to one playoff berth in four seasons, but retaining him without an extension would mean carrying a $45MM cap charge for 2022, which hinders the rest of the club’s roster-building efforts. On the other hand, trading him leaves first-year HC Kevin O’Connell without a proven QB to work with.

Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do with Cousins, the Colts are clearly a key team to watch in the non-Deshaun Watson sector of the quarterback market.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 12/31/21

Here are the New Year’s Eve additions and subtractions from teams’ reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Activated from practice squad virus list: T Drew Himmelman, LB Barrington Wade

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/25-12/26/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed on or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Christmas and today. In some instances, players activated from the list remain on IR:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Placed on practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Steven Sims

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team