INDIANAPOLIS, IN. -- The Falcons have parted ways with Marcus Mariota, the organization announced on Tuesday.
Mariota signed a two-year deal with the Falcons last offseason. According to OverTheCap.com, the Falcons will save roughly $12 million in salary cap space with Mariota off the roster. Considering Mariota's $2.5 million dead money hit, the move would bring the Falcons total cap space over the $65 million mark. The new league year begins on March 15.
After the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to Indianapolis in March of 2022, the organization came to terms with Mariota shortly after. Mariota and Falcons head coach Arthur Smith worked alongside one another in Tennessee after Mariota was drafted to the Titans with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Smith was Mariota's offensive coordinator in his final year in Tennessee. In the two seasons after his departure, Mariota acted as Derek Carr's backup in Las Vegas before the Falcons signed him to a two-year deal last year.
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For Mariota, his signing with Atlanta and his reuniting with Smith ushered in a period for him to prove to himself, and the league at large, that he was a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL. For the Falcons, Mariota was a bridge from the Matt Ryan era in Atlanta to whatever came next.
Following Mariota's move to Atlanta, the Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder with the No. 74 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Mariota and Ridder took all of the quarterback snaps in Atlanta with the Falcons choosing not to carry another quarterback on the preseason roster that could be qualified as a "camp arm." Feleipe Franks spent majority of his time at tight end, with Mariota and Ridder working with the first, second and third-team offenses.
Mariota was named the Falcons starting quarterback prior to the start of the 2022 season. It's a spot he would hold for the next 13 games.
Mariota produced a 5-8 record as the Falcons starting quarterback. He threw for over 2,000 yards, with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His presence was arguably most felt in the run game, though, as he would go on to carry the ball 85 times for 438 rushing yards (the most of his career). With Mariota, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley the Falcons run game was a force to be reckoned with throughout the 2022 season.
By the Falcons bye week in Week 14, however, Smith and the staff were in the position where they wanted to see what they had in Ridder. The young quarterback started the final four games of the 2022 season for the Falcons, going 2-2 during that span.
When Ridder was named the starter coming out of the Falcons bye week, Smith also announced that Mariota would be placed on injured reserve as he underwent a knee procedure. Smith clearly stated on multiple occasions, though, that Mariota’s placement on IR came after the decision to start Ridder, and it wasn't something that affected the Falcons decision to do so.
With Mariota officially off the Falcons roster, filling the quarterback room becomes a top priority for the Falcons.
In an exclusive interview with AtlantaFalcons.com prior to the start of the NFL Combine this week, Smith said he was pleased with the progress Ridder made in his four-game sample size. Smith said he thinks Ridder's future is bright. However, the head coach did say he would not be naming a starting quarterback at this point in the offseason with a draft and free agency period still on the horizon.
"As always, all options are on the table," Smith said.
With the second-most cap space in the league and with significant draft capital to go along with it, the Falcons have every opportunity to fill out the quarterback room as they see fit. Does that mean Ridder is QB1 in 2023? Or is that a title someone else will hold? Someone the Falcons bring in via the draft, free agency or even a trade?
We'll know more as the offseason continues.
For the time being, though, we now know that Mariota will not be in that conversation as his time in Atlanta comes to a close.
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos from the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.