Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s thoughts on Lamar Jackson, Desmond Ridder

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leaps over Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander. AP file photo

Credit: Gail Burton

Credit: Gail Burton

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leaps over Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander. AP file photo

PHOENIX – Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted that his football people discussed pursuing Ravens free agent quarterback Lamar Jackson, but decided against tying up 25% of their salary-cap funds in on player.

“I would say with Lamar, I think every club does their on evaluation,” Blank said on Tuesday at the NFL’s owners meeting. “We certainly did a form of an evaluation. We had a discussion amongst ourselves, I wasn’t involved in those. The coach did (Arthur Smith), Terry (Fontenot) did and Rich (McKay) was involved in those as well.”

The Falcons weren’t ready to jump back into a bad salary-cap situation.

“We just came out a period of time … last year we set a record for the most dead money in the history of the NFL,” Blank said. “In my 21 years as an owner, we had close to the least amount of cap room than we’ve ever had before. This year we had a healthy amount of cap room. Not very much dead money, a little bit, not much.

“Having compensation at 25% or so tied up in one player, we’ve lived through that. It definitely can put a lot of restraint on your ability to round out a roster and to have the depth on the roster given 17 games and the nature of this game, it still a contact sport ... we need to build a team.”

But last offseason, the Falcons explored signing Deshaun Watson, who signed a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contact with Cleveland.

“I think we explored the one last year, which is what our responsibility was,” Blank said. “We didn’t explore it deeply, deeply. We spent some time on it from a legal standpoint, personal standpoint, value standpoint on the player and a variety of things.

Soon after we got into exploring, we decided it wasn’t a very good match.”

The Falcons were reportedly finalists until the Browns gave a fully guaranteed contract.

Jackson has a 46-15 regular-season record and was named the league’s most valuable player in 2019. Jackson revealed on social media that he requested a trade on March 2.

“I think Lamar’s situation, and I don’t really want to spend a whole lot of time talking about players on other clubs, but Lamar’s situation, I think is very different,” Blank said. “A different player. Different time.”

The Falcons know that Jackson has a stellar track record and would ignite a dormant fan base. The Falcons have posted five consecutive losing seasons.

“You have a winner, a most valuable player in the league,” Blank said. “He’s won a number of games. There’s no question that he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”

Jackson’s playing style is an issue. He’s missed five games in each of the past two seasons.

“Looking at it objectively, there is some concern about whether or not he can play his style of game for … how long can that last,” Blank said. “I’m not sure. He’s only 26. Hopefully a long time for his benefit or anybody that he’s signed with. But he’s missed five to six games each of the last two years. This is not like baseball and basketball where you’re playing 82 or a 182 games, or whatever baseball is now.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Blank said the Falcons had previously decided to move forward with Desmond Ridder, who was drafted in the third round (74th overall) of the 2022 draft.

“It’s not just the last four games he played,” Blank said. “That’s a piece of the pie. It’s really what he’s shown since the day he started ... he showed up on campus as a leader. He’s matured a lot from a physical standpoint, understanding the game.”

After moving on from Matt Ryan, the Falcons turned to Marcus Mariota for 13 games last offseason.

“Last year when Marcus was here, Marcus was great working him,” Blank said. “Very supportive. He’s (Ridder) matured a lot during the whole time after the draft, OTAs, (exhibition) season, in camp and what have you and then throughout the season.

“Then culminating in the four games that he started. I think the sense was when talking to the coaches and coach Smith declared today, if you will, that we internally knew that he was going to be our starting quarterback next year.”

Ridder posted a 44-6 record in college at the University of Cincinnati. He went 2-2 in his four starts.

“There’s not many quarterbacks in the history ….. of college ball that have won as many games as he won in college,” Blank said. “He’s got a lot of experience winning games in big situations. We have faith and confidence in him.”

The Falcons added Taylor Heinicke in free agency.

“We were really fortunate to get a really good backup quarterback,” Blank said. “I think that Heinicke has played at a very high level. If something, God forbid, happens to Desmond, I think we can continue to play competitively. He’s certainly shown that in Washington. I would say he’s a premium backup quarterback. We feel fortunate that we are able to recruit him and bring him to Atlanta.”

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