Desmond Ridder has shown enough to take the reins in 2023 for a full-season audition, which means Marcus Mariota is expendable. I fully expect the Falcons to part ways with him this offseason; I’ve stated before that it’s something I think has already been decided internally. The writing is on the wall.
Outside of a turbulent performance through 13 games that doesn’t warrant his 2023 salary, the veteran quarterback was a total distraction when the Falcons decided to turn to the rookie Ridder. Mariota seemingly stepped away from the team after learning about his demotion. A phantom injury ended his season despite never appearing on any injury report. By all accounts, Mariota took his ball and went home.
According to reports, the Falcons informed Mariota of the change on Thursday morning; by Friday, the team learned the veteran planned to step away. Arthur Smith went even further to say the injury wasn’t an issue all season and that it was Mariota’s prerogative. Again, bad news for Mariota’s future.
The two sides are headed for an inevitable divorce. The salary cap ramifications of parting ways with Mariota all but guarantee the Falcons will cut him. The team can save a whopping $12 million by releasing him while only incurring a $2.5 million dead cap figure. It’s almost impossible to see the Falcons keeping him on the roster in 2023.
Coming into the season, Mariota’s calling card was his veteran leadership. Now, he’s practically useless in that capacity after leaving the team and Ridder high and dry. The plan was always for Mariota to be a stopgap option in Atlanta with a chance to be a two-year starter if he played well enough, but he didn’t.
Even though I believe the team has already internally decided to move on from Mariota, Arthur Smith is still leaving the door cracked. In response to a question about Marcus Mariota’s future, Smith said they’re close to a decision:
“We have a pretty good idea. That’ll all play out,” Smith said. “We will make those moves before or right after the league year.”
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