The Atlanta Falcons named Desmond Ridder the starting quarterback going into the 2023 season, but that didn’t stop them from adding a quality backup in free agency.
The team signed former Washington Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $14 million contract, giving Atlanta some flexibility if Ridder doesn’t produce this season.
Heinicke, 30, has appeared in 25 games over the last two seasons, throwing for 5,232 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The Commanders defeated the Falcons in both 2021 and 2022 with Heinicke under center.
While not everyone agreed with the Heinicke signing, former NFL head coach Marty Mornhinweg is buying into Atlanta’s new backup. In a feature for the 33rd Team, Mornhinweg ranked Heinicke as the NFL’s No. 8 backup quarterback:
Taylor Heinicke is an exciting player who can inject some juice into a team. He’s only 30, and his career passer rating is 85.7. Heinicke has a .500 record as a starter, so he’s proven he can win games. He’s the type of player who can inject confidence into a team when he’s called upon. — Marty Mornhinweg, The 33rd Team
Heinicke, an Atlanta native, can provide the type veteran leadership that Marcus Mariota simply wasn’t capable of. When Ridder was named the starter last season, Mariota opted to leave the team and have knee surgery rather than help the rookie QB succeed.
Heinicke is taking a different approach, saying he signed in Atlanta with the understanding that Ridder was the starting quarterback. If the Falcons are forced to play Heinicke this season, they can rest easy knowing they have one of the NFL’s better backups.