The big-name quarterbacks fared well at the combine. Even Bryce Young, who didn’t participate in the on-field fun and frolic, weighed well. He’s 204 pounds, above the line of demarcation between thin and too thin.
(Though Wallis Simpson, who married the King of England after he ceased being the King of England, did say, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” But I digress.)
Anthony Richardson ran fast and threw the ball well. Will Levis, as promised, showed off “the cannon” – meaning his arm, if he does say so himself. C.J. Stroud did not disappoint. Some newish mock drafts have all four going before the Falcons exercise the No. 8 pick, which some mightn’t see as a big deal. As we know, the Falcons keep saying they like Desmond Ridder.
For all the scenarios we’ve batted around – trade for Lamar Jackson, which could happen; trade for Justin Fields, which isn’t happening; acquire Aaron Rodgers, which shouldn’t happen – there’s an approach we haven’t addressed. It’s possible the Falcons can keep on liking Ridder and still take one of the draft’s top quarterbacks.
As Eagles GM Howie Roseman might say: “You can never be too rich or have too many QBs.”
Ridder has played four NFL games. Those games were encouraging without being convincing. Ridder was the 74th pick in last year’s draft. He wasn’t a prospect on the order of Young, Stroud, Levis or Richardson.
That doesn’t mean a lesser draftee can’t become a franchise quarterback. (Jalen Hurts: 53rd pick in 2020. Tom Brady: 199th pick in 2000.) It does mean the Falcons shouldn’t settle on Ridder if there’s a demonstrably better draftee available.
Brows furrowed when Roseman chose Hurts in Round 2. Didn’t the Eagles already have Carson Wentz, picked second overall in 2016 and the recent signee of a contract befitting a franchise QB? They did. Then they didn’t. A year later, Wentz was shipped to the Colts. Hurts became QB1. Hurts just took the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Wentz has been jettisoned by the Colts and Commanders.
I’m not saying Ridder is Wentz, who apparently doesn’t wear well with employers. I am saying the Falcons shouldn’t dismiss the idea of a quarterback upgrade because Ridder had four encouraging games.
About here, I hear you shouting, “The Falcons need a pass rusher! They don’t need to burn a Round 1 pick on a quarterback when they’ve got a promising one!” My reply: The Falcons will always need a pass rusher – it’s written in their NFL charter – and, last I checked, most teams employ more than one quarterback.
There’s also this: Ridder’s salary for 2023 is $870,000. That’s the benefit of him being a third-rounder. That’s how they could pay Marcus Mariota $6.75 million for one season’s work even as they were cap-strapped. As pro athletes go, Ridder is affordable.
The idea isn’t to find a quarterback. The idea is to find the quarterback who can win you a Super Bowl. Maybe it’s Ridder. Pro Football Focus rated him the 43rd-best prospect in the 2022 class. PFF rates the top four quarterbacks as Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 11 prospects in the 2023 class.
Saturday’s combine showings could set off a frenzy of draft maneuvering. Could the Falcons stay at No. 8 and get one of the four? Maybe not. Do they like the talent on hand – meaning Ridder – so much they’d rather ride with him than sink draft capital into moving up to land a challenger? Maybe so. This offseason keeps heaping variable upon variable.
The simplest way – though it’s not in any way simple – for the Falcons to land a big-time quarterback is to pry Jackson from the Ravens. It’s now thought Baltimore will affix a non-exclusive franchise tag to its QB, which would allow other teams to negotiate with him, which might allow the Ravens to match and keep him. It also might not. Variables!
The Ravens have until Tuesday to apply a tag, be it exclusive or non-exclusive. The draft is April 27. The NFL went to great lengths to become the first year-round sport. We who write about sports can’t thank the league enough.
The above is part of a regular exercise, written and curated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
FAQ: How do you sign up? Go to the AJC.com home page. Click on “newsletters” at the top right. Click on “Sports Daily.” You’ll need to enter your email address. Thanks in advance, folks.
About the Author