The Falcons need cover at QB. Would Aaron Rodgers suffice?

Year 2 under Arthur Smith ended as Year 1 did – the Falcons are 7-10, having secured the draft’s No. 8 pick. If you were hoping for a true tank job at the end, you were disappointed. The Falcons finished by beating terrible Arizona and a half-trying Tampa Bay. Desmond Ridder is 2-2 as an NFL starting quarterback, which is encouraging if not probative.

One difference: The 7-10 Falcons of 2021 were outscored by 146 points; the 7-10 Falcons of 2022 were outscored by 21. Eight of their 10 losses came in one-score games. (As did five of their seven victories.) They led the NFC South – granted, not the gold standard – in scoring. They finished last in points yielded. Much of this was accomplished with Marcus Mariota, who has since become a galloping ghost, at quarterback.

The Falcons aren’t in terrible shape. Ridder might pan out. He also might not. Having the eighth pick might – might, I said – give them a chance to land Will Levis of Kentucky. (Who was the last succesful UK-produced pro quarterback? George Blanda or Babe Parilli.) But now we ask: With a team forever lacking in defenders, do you spend a Round 1 pick on a quarterback a year after burning a No. 3?

If you answer no, here’s your next question: How confident are you that Ridder’s the guy? Is there some veteran – we assume Mariota will never be seen in Flowery Branch again – who might give the Falcons cover if Ridder regresses?

Because regression happens. Note Mac Jones of the Patriots and Zach Wilson of the Jets, disappointments in Year 2. Note that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, once deemed full-fledged franchise quarterbacks, have been dumped on different franchises.

One vet who springs to mind is Derek Carr, long a Raider. He’s 31, which isn’t old. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler. The Raiders could cut him – he has no guaranteed money left on a contract that has two years to run – meaning he could be available as a free agent, though Las Vegas would surely try to trade him first.

Another is Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the 49ers keep wanting to move but who refuses to leave. Another is Ryan Tannehill, whom the Titans benched before he was lost to ankle surgery, which is how they wound up with Joshua Dobbs of Alpharetta starting Saturday’s playoff play-in against Jacksonville. Jameis Winston is out there, though it’s not a great sign with you sit behind Andy Dalton.

And then there’s this other guy. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Aaron Rodgers.

As we know, Rodgers enjoys being enigmatic. His future, he once said, “is a beautiful mystery.” He got miffed when the Packers drafted Jordan Love, presumptive quarterback-in-waiting, and spent years acting as if he wanted to leave. Green Bay’s loss to the Lions kept it out of the playoffs. Rodgers milked the moment by gazing into the Lambeau Field stands as “The Way We Were” played over the PA. (Slight embellishment.)

He’s 39. He mightn’t want to play anymore. He’s coming off one of the worst statistical seasons since he became a starter, which was in 2008. He’s the prima donna Matt Ryan never was. If Rodgers came to work here, he’d take up most of the oxygen in Hall County.

That said, he’s Aaron Rodgers. He might be available. He’s not at his peak, but he’s still better than Ridder, starter of four NFL games.

A word of warning, though. This NFL season saw quarterbacks who’d taken teams to the Super Bowl look nothing like themselves – Ryan in Indianapolis, Russell Wilson in Denver, Matthew Stafford with the Rams. Tom Brady and Rodgers finished 17th and 18th in passer rating. (Brady might also be relocating, FYI.)

Yes, Brady and Stafford won Super Bowls in new environs. Ryan and Wilson upped sticks and had the worst experiences of their distinguished careers. What will happen with Carr and Jimmy G. and maybe even Rodges is, ahem, a beautiful mystery. Were I the Falcons, I’d consider Carr. I wouldn’t consider Rodgers.