Falcons’ Raheem Morris, Terry Fontenot: All QB options on table

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 6:49 PM

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Atlanta Falcons settle in for the NFL Scouting Combine this week, team brass tackled the quarterback question head-on.

“If we had better quarterback play last year,” new head coach Raheem Morris said Tuesday, “I might not be standing here.”

Three straight 7-10 seasons spelled the end of Arthur Smith’s tenure as Atlanta’s coach. The Falcons flitted between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke at starting quarterback throughout 2023, with neither able to take the job and run with it.

“We’ve got to get it right, and that’s real clear,” general manager Terry Fontenot said. “We haven’t shied away from that. We know that’s critical to get that position right.”

To replace Smith, the Falcons hired Morris, a former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and most recently the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator. Morris said he’s surrounded himself with “19 quarterback coaches” on his coaching staff, chief among them offensive coordinator Zac Robinson and QBs coach T.J. Yates, both former NFL signal-callers.

Ridder, a third-round pick in the 2022 draft, remains on the Falcons’ roster. He threw for 2,836 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games (13 starts) in 2023, but he tossed 12 interceptions and fumbled 12 times.

Morris and Fontenot made clear they’re leaving no stone unturned, particularly as the Falcons have an estimated $41.99 million in salary cap space.

“We have so many avenues right now because we have free agency money,” Morris said. “We have the ability to trade. … You’ve got option A, you’ve got option B, you’ve got option C, you’ve got option D.”

“It can be a veteran, it can be a young player. We won’t close any doors,” Fontenot added. “It’s about getting it right, whatever that is. And the cool thing about this year is there are a lot of really good options in all areas.”

The Falcons hold the No. 8 pick in the draft, with quarterback-needy teams like Washington and New England ahead of them.

A trade or free agent pickup could be the likelier play, though Morris was careful to sidestep specific questions about pending free agent Baker Mayfield (Tampa Bay) or trade-market possibilities Russell Wilson (Denver) and Justin Fields (Chicago).

“I’ve got so much respect for our fans that I won’t get myself in trouble or us in trouble talking about any particular person,” Morris said. “But it’s really exciting with the quarterback group that’s out there that we have the ability of acquiring. And that’s what makes our fan base, that’s what makes our front office, that’s what makes our coaches all excited to be able to talk in our rooms about those people.”

–Field Level Media