Lots of veteran quarterback choices will be available for new-look Falcons
WATCH: A rematch is coming between Mahomes and Allen. Columnist Chad Finn and reporter Christopher Price run through the games and predict the winners. Bill Belichick completed a second interview with the Atlanta Falcons this weekend about their head coaching job, and he would be joining a promising situation.
The Falcons finished 7-10, but have a decent defense, a veteran offensive line, and several talented skill players on offense. But the Falcons won’t be a contender until they find a quarterback. Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke didn’t get it done in 2023, and now the Falcons are starting over.
The first round of the draft may not be the answer. The Falcons hold the No. 8 pick, meaning the top quarterbacks will almost certainly be drafted before their turn, or the Falcons will have to pay a hefty price to trade up.
Instead, they will probably have to scour the veteran market. Let’s take a look at the quarterbacks who will be available this spring for any team looking for a veteran: ▪ Kirk Cousins — He’ll be 36 in August, is coming off a torn Achilles’, and has been the king of “good, not great” throughout his career, with just one playoff win in nine seasons as a starter. That said, Cousins is by far the best passer available this offseason, and he could be the missing piece for the Falcons, similar to Matthew Stafford and the Rams.
The Vikings don’t have a backup plan and will likely be motivated to re-sign Cousins, since they saw this season how quickly they fell apart without him. But Cousins expressed admiration for Belichick in an interview this past week, and the Falcons could certainly swoop in with an offer Cousins can’t refuse. ▪ Justin Fields — One of the biggest questions of the offseason is whether the Bears will keep Fields or draft a quarterback with the No.
1 pick. The Bears may be tipping their hand with their staff moves — they fired offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and on Friday interviewed Kliff Kingsbury, who worked with potential No. 1 pick Caleb Williams at USC.
Fields has struggled in three years in Chicago, with a 10-28 record, 60. 3 completion percentage, and 40:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But Fields is arguably one of the five most dynamic athletes in the NFL, with 2,220 career rushing yards, and he finished 2023 on a high note, winning four of his last six games.
I have heard that Belichick and Josh McDaniels have been eager to coach a dual-threat quarterback, and this could be a great opportunity. A Falcons offense featuring Fields, Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Bijan Robinson, and Cordarrelle Patterson could be faster than a 4x100 track team. ▪ Russell Wilson — The Broncos appear ready to move on from Wilson after two underwhelming seasons, but Wilson may be a decent option for a team needing a veteran.
His stats weren’t terrible in 2023 — a 66. 4 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns, only eight interceptions. He’ll be motivated to prove the Broncos wrong and to show the world that he still has it at age 35.
And Wilson will come cheaply, since the Broncos already owe him $39 million fully guaranteed, with offsets. Imagine Belichick joining the Falcons, his adversary in Super Bowl LI, and teaming up with Wilson, his adversary in Super Bowl XLIX. Pretty hilarious.
▪ Baker Mayfield — He has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, finishing with 4,044 yards, 28 touchdowns, and a spot in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Mayfield seems to have found his home in Tampa Bay, and it would be a shock if the Buccaneers didn’t re-sign him. But McDaniels was rumored to love Mayfield coming into the 2018 draft.
Perhaps the Falcons will blow Mayfield away with a big offer, as unlikely as it seems. ▪ Geno Smith — The Seahawks are starting over with a new coach and offensive coordinator, and have a decision to make on Smith. His $20.
3 million compensation in 2024 has no guarantees until the fifth day of the league year, at which point it becomes fully guaranteed. Smith, 33, was decent in 2023, but his production dipped from the previous year, and the Seahawks missed the playoffs. ▪ Ryan Tannehill — He got benched midway through the season for Will Levis, and Tannehill, who turns 36 in July, hasn’t made it through a season healthy and productive since 2021.
But he could be a decent, low-cost option for a team that isn’t sure if it will find a rookie worth playing early in the season. ▪ Jimmy Garoppolo — He got benched after six games in Las Vegas, and his arm looked shot. That said, Garoppolo got an awfully quick hook for someone still learning a new system and new teammates, and at 32 still might have some football left.
He could be another low-cost option for the Falcons given his connection to Belichick and McDaniels. ▪ Jacoby Brissett — Now 31, he has wandered from Indianapolis to Miami to Cleveland to Washington the last four years, starting 16 games in spot duty. He’ll probably join another team in 2024, and will be the perfect veteran to pair with a young QB.
▪ Other quarterbacks who will likely be available: Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew, Marcus Mariota, Drew Lock, Davis Mills, Sam Darnold, Tyler Huntley, Mac Jones, Josh Dobbs, Brian Hoyer, and Zach Wilson. Among those names, Winston could be an intriguing fit as a temporary starter entering 2024, and the Broncos may make the most sense given Winston’s relationship with Sean Payton. The Patriots also liked Mills coming out of the 2021 draft, making him a potential low-cost option for the Falcons.
ROAD TRIP Mahomes not expecting warm welcome Patrick Mahomes has not been fazed by playing away from home during his NFL career. His win percentage on the road (. 776) is nearly identical to it at Arrowhead Stadium (.
780). His career passer rating on the road (107. 6) is far better than it is at home (99.
3). But Sunday’s Divisional Round game in Buffalo will be a whole new ballgame for Mahomes. It’s his first road playoff game after beginning his career with 15 at home or neutral sites.
And it will be Mahomes’s first game in front of the raucous Bills Mafia. Mahomes is 3-3 against the Bills, but the last five games have been in Kansas City, including two postseason matchups. The only time Mahomes played in Buffalo was in October 2020, a 26-17 Chiefs win in which no fans were in attendance because of the pandemic.
“He’s never been here, simple as that,” Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins said. “Not to say it’s in our favor, but the stadium is [in] our favor. Stadium is us.
That helps us. I don’t care what nobody says. This is the most dopest feeling I’ve ever had.
We’re having two back-to-back playoff games at home. Come on now, like we get to leave and go eat wings. It’s cool.
So, good luck. ” The Chiefs went 7-2 away from Arrowhead this season, with losses at Denver in October and Green Bay in December. Mahomes said he’s excited for the charged-up atmosphere that will take over Highmark Stadium on Sunday night.
“I want to see what it’s like to be in that type of environment,” he said this past week. “I know it’ll be hostile and it’ll be tough for us, but it’d be cool for new experiences. ” ETC.
McCarthy might be facing last roundup A few items on the NFL’s coaching carousel: ▪ The biggest news of the week was not a firing but instead Jerry Jones’s decision to keep Mike McCarthy as the Cowboys’ head coach for 2024. The move was met with plenty of dismay and bewilderment from fans and media, who expected Jones to move on after McCarthy wasted yet another 12-5 season with yet another one-and-done in the playoffs. McCarthy’s seat will be scorching hot entering next season.
It’s fair to wonder if Jones is only keeping McCarthy because he doesn’t want to pay a buyout. And it’s fair to wonder how desperate Jones truly is to win a Super Bowl, when the checks keep rolling in either way. But I do see a football reason for keeping McCarthy.
The problem for Jones is he gave McCarthy too much power. If Jones fires McCarthy the head coach, Jones also has to fire McCarthy the offensive coordinator. And I can see the argument that starting over with a new OC, play-caller, and playbook is not the best way to maximize Dak Prescott and reach the Super Bowl in 2024.
But if the Cowboys flame out again next season, it’s likely the end for McCarthy and Prescott, who is entering the final year of his contract. ▪ One firing that I’m struggling to understand is the Browns parting ways with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt after four seasons. Coach Kevin Stefanski has been the play-caller, but Van Pelt seemed to get the most out of the Browns’ quarterback room.
The Browns won 11 games this season, reached the playoffs, and finished No. 10 in scoring while starting an NFL-record five quarterbacks. Van Pelt helped coax a couple of wins out of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.
J. Walker, and helped Joe Flacco become one of the best stories in the NFL. This was not a situation screaming for a coaching change.
▪ It seems ridiculous that Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson had two virtual interviews scheduled for Friday (Panthers, Commanders) and two Saturday (Chargers, Seahawks), ahead of the Lions’ biggest game in 30 years Sunday. Was Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn distracted last week with all of his upcoming interviews? Did it affect former Eagles coach Jonathan Gannon in last year’s Super Bowl? The NFL should find a way to push back the coach hiring cycle until after the Super Bowl. Packers on same page Jordan Love has been doing his best Aaron Rodgers impression, with 21 touchdown passes against one interception in his last nine games before Saturday.
But at least one opponent noticed an aspect in which Love differs greatly from Rodgers. “A quarterback who does exactly what he’s coached to do,” 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said of Love. “Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Famer and unbelievable, but he kind of went outside of the realm of coaching, and sometimes it’s good when you have a guy who does what he’s coached to do.
” Part of Rodgers’s greatness comes from his ability to move chess pieces at the line of scrimmage and get his players in the right matchup. But that often made it difficult for the Packers’ coaches. “Sometimes in past years you’d just be trying to figure out what play was called,” Packers offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said.
“Not to say that way wasn’t good, because we had great results with it, but this is nice because at least you can kind of build on offense around it, build plays off plays. I think our communication on the sideline has been better just from that aspect of being able to, as the game progresses, have plays off of plays and things like that. Yeah, that is a huge advantage this year.
” Coach’s corner Loved the answer from Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla this past week when he was asked about his visit with the Patriots’ staff last summer. Mazzulla said he got to watch film in the linebackers room with Jerod Mayo, Steve Belichick, and the players, and said he watches the NFL to see if he can utilize any of the same concepts with the Celtics. “You take a look at their defensive schemes and their ability to pass guys off, is something that I pay attention to a lot,” Mazzulla said.
“I think teams are getting really creative in their pre-snap motion, which is kind of the same way, manipulating matchups. Like what Miami does with their pre-snap motion and kind of gain just a little bit of momentum before the ball is snapped. We use some of the wide receiver routes for our plays.
So I definitely pay attention to it. ” Extra points Has the NFL stopped trying to make the Combine into a big event? For years the NFL has been trying to make the Combine a “thing” — moving drills to prime-time TV, and yearly rumors of moving the event to Los Angeles. But all that talk has mostly been hot air.
The city of Indianapolis announced Thursday that the Combine will remain there through at least 2025. Plus, TV ratings were dismal last year. This year will also see the introduction of a Big 12 Pro Day at The Star in Frisco, Texas, that will be televised on NFL Network and will replace the pro days at the individual campuses.
Pretty soon the Combine’s only purpose may be the medical checks for 330 draft prospects . . .
Missing their top three pass rushers, the Dolphins sent the house at Patrick Mahomes last week, calling a Cover 0 blitz (no safety help) on 18 dropbacks. Mahomes struggled with the blitz, completing just 7 of 18 passes for 74 yards. Something for the Bills to file away this week .
. . The NFL needs to start reconsidering its weather policies.
The Kansas City Fire Department reported that 10 people were hospitalized for hypothermia or frostbite during or after last Saturday’s playoff win against the Dolphins, in which windchill was minus-27. Travis Kelce said on his “New Heights” podcast that one of his teammates burned his foot with heat warmers. “Ended up getting two golf-ball size blisters on top of his feet,” Kelce said .
. . Last Saturday, the Texans became the fourth team in NFL history to win a playoff game with a rookie coach/quarterback combo.
And DeMeco Ryans and C. J. Stroud were just the sixth Black coach/quarterback combo to play in a playoff game, the first since Dennis Green and Daunte Culpepper in 2001 .
. . In their loss to the Buccaneers, the Eagles became just the fourth team in NFL history to go 0-fer on third down in a playoff game.
They became the only team to also not convert a fourth-down attempt, as well . . .
Only 28 people in NFL history have won a Super Bowl as a player and coach, a list that includes Todd Bowles, Mike Ditka, Tony Dungy, Tom Flores, Leslie Frazier, Larry Izzo, Pepper Johnson, Byron Leftwich, Doug Pederson, and Dan Reeves . . .
Matt Patricia was no miracle worker with the Eagles’ defense. The Eagles went 1-3 in his four games as play-caller, and the defense allowed 29. 75 points per game against some of the worst offenses in the NFL — Giants (30th in points), Cardinals (24th), and Buccaneers (20th) .
. . Now we know why Colts owner Jim Irsay wasn’t seen at the NFL owners’ meetings Dec.
12. According to TMZ, police found Irsay unresponsive and blue from a suspected drug overdose at his home in Indiana Dec. 8.
The Colts only confirmed that Irsay is hospitalized for a respiratory illness. Best wishes to Irsay, who has long battled addiction and other demons. .