Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith discuss expanding the quarterback position in 2022 and beyond

Marcus Mariota and Feleipe Franks are the only quarterbacks currently in Atlanta. Fontenot says it's the organization's charge to fill the room out. 

Atlanta Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith look on and talk during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday August 31, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

With Matt Ryan officially on his way to Indianapolis, Terry Fontenot was asked on Wednesday how that trade changes the overall likelihood that the Falcons draft a quarterback in this year's draft. In his answer, Fontenot immediately said no, it really doesn't change the Falcons overall position on drafting a quarterback at all. If they like someone, they'll go after them. If they don't, they won't.

So, really, nothing has changed considering this is the same answer Fontenot has always given since he and Arthur Smith took over the organization last year.

"We're never going to feel pressured to reach for a quarterback," the general manager said.


Circumstances have changed, though, because even though the Falcons have signed Marcus Mariota, the tag of franchise quarterback is still up for grabs in Atlanta. They'll ideally have to find one this year or next. In the meantime, though, Fontenot said they'll refill the position. How they planned to do so, both in the short- and long-term, he would not specify.

"We're going to add to the position," Fontenot said. "Whether it's in the draft, we'll see where that is. It could be in the draft. It could also be in free agency, and it could also be via trade."

All options, as Fontenot and Smith have said before, are on the table. Right now, they're actively doing their due diligence to catch glimpses of all the top quarterbacks in this year's draft class.

As the Ryan trade was being finalized on Monday, Fontenot was at Pitt for Kenny Pickett's pro day while Smith was at North Carolina. On Tuesday, Fontenot was at Liberty checking out Malik Willis. Directly after their joint press conference on Wednesday, Fontenot and Smith immediately left for Oxford, where Matt Corral was throwing for the first time during this pre-draft evaluation period. On Thursday, they headed to Cincinatti where Desmond Ridder put on a show, and Fontenot was seen chatting with Sauce Gardner, one of the top cornerbacks in this year's draft class.

However, that doesn't mean the Falcons are taking a quarterback. They did their due diligence last year with Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence. And yet, they picked Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick. So, no. This doesn't mean the Falcons are drafting Ryan's successor in this year's draft class. It also doesn't mean they'll take one next year in the draft, but they're already looking ahead in case they do find someone they love.

"Me and Arthur were talking about some underclassmen the other day because when you're watching tape on other players you see those guys," Fontenot said, "and that's important to not just look at this year but to look at next year and think big picture."

They're already gathering intel on quarterbacks like Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Alabama's Bryce Young, the two top projected quarterbacks of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Like Fontenot said, though, they have other options, too. They could sign a free agent, or they could execute a trade to get a veteran quarterback into Atlanta. Whatever direction the organization wants to go to find the next franchise quarterback, Smith said they have to have the foundation of something built to sustain him, whoever he may be.

"We feel like we need to make sure whoever the guy is that there's enough around him to be successful." Smith concluded.


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