Training camp is nearly upon us, and with it comes storylines galore for the Atlanta Falcons in a transitional year. One of the main topics of conversation revolves around the quarterback room, and what the long-term plan is for the future of the position.
In the days leading up to training camp, the Falcons editorial staff will break down the situations for every offensive and defensive position on the 2022 squad.
Up first: Quarterbacks.
Who's in the room: Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks*
*Franks played tight end almost exclusively during the Falcons mandatory minicamp practices
53-man projection: Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder, Feleipe Franks (perhaps as a tight end)
Projected starter: Marcus Mariota
Where the position was: For over a decade, Matt Ryan was the face of the Falcons franchise. He broke records in Atlanta, and was as durable and dependable under center as they come. The Falcons have not had to worry about the quarterback position since he was drafted. However, after the Falcons reported pursuit of Deshaun Watson this offseason, Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 third-round draft pick, which the organization used on edge rusher DeAngelo Malone.
So, for the first time in over a decade, the Falcons will begin a season without Ryan as the leader of the offense.
Where the position is: Within 24 hours of Ryan's trade to the Colts being finalized, the Falcons had signed Mariota to a two-year deal. Mariota has a history with Arthur Smith, as the two worked together when they both were with Tennessee not too long ago. During his time with the Titans, Mariota saw significant turnover every single year after he was drafted No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. He went through coaching changes and injuries before losing his starting job to Ryan Tannehill in 2019. He's been Derek Carr's backup with the Raiders since. Now, he joins the Falcons as a man with something to prove. For Mariota, he wants to prove to himself and the league at large that starting-quarterback-caliber-play is still within him. He hopes that shines through with the Falcons.
Along with Mariota, the Falcons added another quarterback via the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta took Ridder with the No. 74 overall pick. The former Cincinnati quarterback had a college career almost as sparkling as Mariota's. Ridder led a Cincinnati Bearcats team to become the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoffs last season. Ridder comes to Atlanta with a competitive spirit that can't be overlooked. Though it is likely Mariota will be the Day One starter, Ridder can still make waves in his rookie year as the Falcons coaching staff learns more about what they have to work with with Mariota and Ridder.
Where the position is going: This is the biggest question of them all. What does the future of this position look like? Is it a resurrection of Mariota's career? Does a long-term solution lay within Ridder? Or is the future quarterback of the Falcons even on this roster at all? With blockbuster trades happening yearly now within the quarterback position, are the Falcons opened to exploring one?
All options are on the table at this point. The Falcons may not be committed to one plan or another since there is still so much that needs to unfold to know what direction they may or may not be leaning at the position. There are many who believe a rebuild begins with a quarterback. If that's true, what does that mean for the Falcons in 2022 and beyond? Right now, there are more questions than answers in that regard, and it's too soon to tell what direction this important position is heading in Atlanta.