"We could come out of this draft with a quarterback."
When Terry Fontenot said these 10 words, Twitter and aggregation stations immediately ran with it as many considered it to be the Falcons signal that a new quarterback was coming to Atlanta after the 2022 NFL Draft, which starts on Thursday night.
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If you take this quote at face value, sure, you could assume that. Fontenot said in his joint pre-draft press conference with Arthur Smith on Tuesday that, yes, the Falcons have to find depth at the quarterback position. After trading Matt Ryan to Indianapolis last month, the Falcons brought in Marcus Mariota on a two-year deal. The only other quarterback in Atlanta is former undrafted free agent Feleipe Franks.
"We want to add to that room," Fontenot said.
We could leave it at that, and be left assuming the Falcons are going to pick a quarterback in this year's draft, but that's not what Fontenot or Smith really said. Their full comments about the future of the position didn't lean one way or the other. Though their comments will be spliced together for headlines and tweets and sound bites, the full context actually has the duo not committing to doing any such thing.
Here's Fontenot's full quote from the very first quote of this story:
"We evaluate. We spent a lot of time with the quarterback draft class this year. We spent a lot of time with the quarterback draft class last year. Did a lot of work. Obviously, we're not going to give away what we're going to do at No. 8, or any other pick, but we could come out of this draft with a quarterback. We want to add to that room, and we will see what happens. We did a lot of work on this class. We did a lot of work on this class, just like we did last year."
Later, Fontenot backed off even further.
"Whether it's in the draft or not, we'll add to that room," he said.
And when asked if he'd be disappointed if the Falcons didn't draft a quarterback on Thursday (or Friday or Saturday), Fontenot didn't hesitate to say, no. He wouldn't be disappointed.
"We could draft a quarterback in any of the rounds, or there are multiple ways to acquire quarterbacks, and we want to add to that room, and we will," Fontenot repeated. "So, it could be in the draft, it could be after the draft, it could be via trade. We're not going to limit ourselves."
They didn't commit and they're not going to before the 2022 NFL Draft begins. They're not going to lean one way or another because 1) Why would they show their hand at this point? and 2) They know how much truly rides on the decision of just who the next franchise quarterback will be.
Smith said when it comes to making that decision at quarterback, it's an investment unlike any other because of how it affects the direction of an entire organization.
"It's such an enormous decision to make," Smith said. "... When we decide to make that pick or make that transaction it'll be a collaborative effort."
So, don't be fooled by a singular graphic here, or a well-placed sound bite there. Fontenot said the Falcons "could" take a quarterback this year. They "could" have easily done so last year, too, when they did the work on that quarterback group as well. But they didn't.
Fontenot and Smith didn't say they would take a quarterback, or that they were planning to at all. They said they "could." Coulda, shoulda, woulda. My advice? Don't hold your breath either way. We don't actually know which direction they're heading at all. There's quite a lot that could happen on draft night, especially in this year's draft.
Ambiguity is the Falcons' best friend right now, and that's what Fontenot and Smith are being: Ambiguous.