With the Atlanta Falcons cutting Marcus Mariota, the Lamar Jackson coming to the Dirty South rumors are out in full force.
By releasing Marcus Mariota, the Atlanta Falcons have freed up an additional $12 million, giving them the second-most available cap space to pursue someone like Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens in his free agency of sorts.
The chances of Jackson getting a long-term deal in Baltimore feel very slim. At worst, the Ravens will franchise tag him to kick this joyless slog of an ongoing negotiating process into another year. On paper, Jackson would fit in very well the Falcons, both culturally in Atlanta and schematically running Arthur Smith’s offense. Of course, a blockbuster trade like this would be controversial…
Only the Chicago Bears, who are committed to Atlanta-area native Justin Fields as their franchise quarterback now and in the future, will have more available cap space to work with this offseason.
With or without Jackson, the Falcons are a prime candidate to go worst-to-first in the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons release Marcus Mariota, could be in play for Lamar Jackson now
Look. The Falcons are the team I root for and know the most about. So when I say potentially trading for Jackson is controversial, I am not kidding. He is an immense talent and an undeniable culture changer. A franchise that has lost its way in recent years might welcome that. And to be totally honest, he would be a better fit with the Falcons than Gainesville native Deshaun Watson.
However, this comes down to two things with regards to the Falcons: Finally having cap space for the first time in a decade and potentially having something good in second-year pro Desmond Ridder under center. The Falcons are very high on the former Cincinnati star. He got better with each start after having replaced Mariota. His teammates love him and they responded to him.
Not to say Jackson would not gel in Atlanta, he probably would, but the Falcons have a second-year quarterback still on a rookie deal, armed with more cap space since Barack Obama was in The White House. This is the situation Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot dreamed of. Their approach to rebuilding this team has not been easy, but it is working. Let’s not skip steps here…
By trading for Jackson, goodbye, precious cap space. More importantly, goodbye key players on this roster like A.J. Terrell, and most definitely Ridder. In theory, you might be able to attract more players to Atlanta with Jackson, but this young core seems to be pulling in the same direction. Team cohesiveness may help smooth out the edges on the abrasive Smith with the local media.
Overall, Atlanta is going to do one of two things at quarterback this year. They will either build a team around Ridder or trade for someone like Jackson who the Falcons feel can be a catalyst to make up the difference they lost. Truth be told, one guy can change the narrative of a team, but it takes a whole team to win. Jackson, Ridder or whomever do not play on defense or special teams.
Ultimately, this comes down to one thing and one thing only. Do the Falcons have any interest in Jackson? To this point, they have not shown their hand. While some may say releasing Mariota is a telling sign, it is not. He was going to be released anyway … after he quit on the team when he got benched. For now, the Falcons are a franchise of massive intrigue heading into the NFL offseason.
Love it or hate it, Atlanta is one of the teams who will be linked to Jackson throughout the process.