It seems the changing of the guard for the Atlanta Falcons is officially underway.
Just hours after word got out that Atlanta was trading Matt Ryan, its starting quarterback for the past 14 seasons, the team signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal, $18.75 million deal according ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Mariota was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He spent five seasons in Nashville before signing a two-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2020 offseason.
This move reunites Mariota with Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith. Smith started as defensive quality control coach for the Titans in 2011 before switching over to the offensive side of the ball and eventually working his way up to offensive coordinator in 2019. He was named head coach of the Falcons in 2021 and posted a 7-10 record in his first season in Atlanta.
With Mariota at the helm, the Titans recorded three straight winning seasons and one playoff appearance (2017), the franchise’s first since 2008. However, a disappointing start to the 2019 season led Titans head coach Mike Vrabel to bench Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill, who had been acquired from the Dolphins in the prior offseason. Tannehill led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game and was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year, effectively ending Mariota’s time in Nashville.
Mariota signed with the Raiders as a free agent but struggled to establish himself in the rotation, plagued with injuries and ultimately taking backup to Derek Carr, the Raiders’ starting quarterback for the past eight seasons.
Mariota’s rise to fame dates back to his time at Oregon, where he mounted an impressive junior season and a competitive rivalry with Saints quarterback Jameis Winston. Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in decisive fashion before leading the Ducks to their lone College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. In the semifinals, Oregon beat Winston and the Florida State Seminoles 59-20 before coming up short against Ohio State in the championship game.
Ryan’s departure leaves a clear vacancy at the quarterback position and Mariota is believed to be in a good position to assume that role with the current roster. Atlanta also has the eighth pick in the upcoming NFL draft which could add another dimension to the quarterback conversation.