Why Falcons passing on Lamar Jackson makes more sense than you think

No, it does not seem like the Atlanta Falcons are interested in trading for Lamar Jackson.

Despite the fit actually being pretty stellar, the Atlanta Falcons are going to pass on Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in his free agency.

The 2019 NFL MVP was slapped with the non-exclusive franchise tag on Tuesday afternoon. He will make a shade over $32 million in 2023 if he ends up playing for them. Had he been hit with the exclusive tag, Baltimore would have had to pay him considerably more than that. This is a savvy move by the Ravens to show Jackson what his market is worth and maybe close a deal?

The Falcons are out of the Jackson sweepstakes, which everybody kept trying to make it a thing.

FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager confirmed ESPN’s Dianna Russini’s report of Atlanta being out.

And this may stink for some Falcons fans, but this is actually a smarter move than you realize.

Atlanta Falcons passing on Lamar Jackson is actually the right call for them

Surely, this could blow in the Falcons’ face if he were to sign with a division rival like the Carolina Panthers or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That would be so unbelievably par for the course for the Falcons, but hear me out on why this united decision to stand pat is the best thing Atlanta can do. They might actually have the guy at quarterback with Desmond Ridder still on his rookie contract.

Ridder got better with each passing start down the stretch for the Falcons. To be frank, it was beyond eye-gouging to watch Marcus Mariota start games in November. His inherently reckless nature drove all of us in The ATL to the brink of insanity. When he got benched and quit on the team, good riddance. Ridder took over and got immediate buy-in from all his Falcons teammates.

So what does this have to do with Jackson? Absolutely everything. Atlanta pivoted off its franchise quarterback Matt Ryan just last season. Even though the Falcons lose way more than win, they usually get competent play out of the quarterback position. I can count on maybe one hand how many truly bad years the Falcons have gotten out of the position since I really became a fan in ’98.

The idea behind not trading for Jackson is to load up the roster as much as possible around Ridder, hoping he can be the next Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson of sorts, third or fourth-round picks with franchise quarterback material. The Falcons do not have to pay Ridder squat until his fifth season in the league. The best part is they have three more years to see if he is their guy.

Had Atlanta traded for Jackson, goodbye precious draft capital. Instead of drafting the pass-rusher you haven’t had since John Abraham, you get Jackson on a massive contract, asked to cover up even more deficiencies than before he arrived. In short, you are talking about some combination of first-round picks and first-round talents on the roster going Baltimore’s way, who will so own you.

Now that the Falcons finally have cap space for the first time since, what, the Barack Obama administration, they can rebuild this thing very, very quickly. It was always part of head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot’s plan to see what they had in 2021, bite the bullet in 2022 and go all-in in 2023. They went 7-10 back-to-back, but last year felt way different.

Even with more dead cap than any team could ever hope to carry, the Falcons were not horrific given their financial limitations. These guys played hard for Smith, and outside of the road game at the Cincinnati Bengals, they either won or were in the other 16 games. It was not poor coaching that help them back last season, but a lack of talent to close the gap in the final minutes of games.

See, by not trading for Jackson, you can draft a Myles Murphy out of Texas Tech to bolster your pass rush or a Christian Gonzalez out of Oregon to improve your secondary at No. 8. You can also take home-run cuts in free agency to see if guys like Jessie Bates of the Cincinnati Bengals want to come to The ATL. You add a wide receiver and commit to Kaleb McGary at right tackle and boom!

You didn’t pay attention to it last year because, why would you? But the Falcons have developed a culture that players want to play in. It’s different, but it is also similar to what Dan Campbell is building in Detroit. Smith is gruffer than Campbell, but he knows how to coach up a tough football team. Fontenot would not leave the Saints front office for the Falcons for any old reason…

In short, the Falcons are going to field a competitive football team next year, one that is certainly capable of going maybe 11-6 and winning the NFC South. They are just now entering the interesting phase of their competitive life cycle. You just cannot microwave this, such as trading for someone else’s franchise quarterback. There is also another strategy if Ridder were to bomb.

If the Falcons suck like there is no tomorrow again in 2023, they will probably be picking in the top 10 again and would have all the reason in the world to trade up into the top five to take either Caleb Williams out of USC or Drake Maye out of North Carolina. Why would you not entertain the possibility of drafting Patrick Mahomes light of the best player UNC has had since Julius Peppers?

At the very least, the Falcons are being methodical in their approach and we have to respect it.

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