GM: Falcons hope to come out of draft with a QB

GM: Falcons hope to come out of draft with a QB

GM Terry Fontenot: Atlanta Falcons hope to come out of draft with a QB5:45 PM ET

Michael RothsteinESPN Staff Writer Close

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons are in the market for a quarterback.

This doesn't mean the team will take one with the eighth pick in the draft on Thursday or even on Friday, but general manager Terry Fontenot made it clear Tuesday: The Falcons are not done looking at or exploring the idea of adding another signal-caller to their room.

It doesn't mean it's a starter, either, but the team wants to have more than Marcus Mariota and Feleipe Franks as their options at the position.

"We're not going to give away what we're going to do at eight or any other pick, but we could come out of this draft with a quarterback," Fontenot said. "We want to add to that room and we'll see what happens."

Atlanta entered the quarterback discussion more fully in March, after the team attempted to pursue quarterback Deshaun Watson when he was being shopped and eventually traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns.

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As part of that, quarterback Matt Ryan, who was still with the Falcons, at first delayed the roster bonus that was due to him by the Falcons and then was traded from Atlanta to the Indianapolis Colts. The same day, the club signed Mariota -- the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft by the Tennessee Titans -- to at least replace Ryan in the short-term.

Ryan had been Atlanta's quarterback since being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft up until March, starting 222 games for Atlanta, completing 65.5% of his passes for 59,735 yards, 367 touchdowns, 170 interceptions and was named the MVP of the 2016 NFL season.

Fontenot said they spent a lot of time looking at this year's quarterback draft class as well as the one from the 2021 draft, where the team did not select a quarterback and signed Franks as an undrafted free agent. Franks made the team out of training camp and spent the season as a backup to Ryan as well as experimenting with playing tight end.

Atlanta had some presence at most of the pro days for the top quarterbacks in the class, including Pitt's Kenny Pickett, Liberty's Malik Willis and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder.

Fontenot said this draft is a particularly tough one to anticipate the first round because of the questions surrounding the quarterbacks. Last year, for instance, Fontenot said he felt like Atlanta had the first pick in the draft at No. 4 because of the feeling the first three picks would all be quarterbacks, which they were when Trevor Lawrence went to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and then Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers.

This year has much more intrigue to it.

"It really is difficult to predict," Fontenot said. "This is a very unique draft."

Fontenot, though, wouldn't say specifically whether or not he felt there were starting quarterbacks in this class -- instead saying that he believes there are starters at every position.

"Right now we evaluate the players," Fontenot said. "Of course there's going to be starters that come out of this class. We won't know that until three or four years from now with some of the players. At every position, there's starters, there is backups."

He also said Atlanta's scouting staff has looked at classes beyond just 2022.

He said the he is both living "in the moment" when it comes to the draft while also looking at the big picture, although he said they aren't looking at who may or may not be targeted next year if need be because so much can change in a year.

Fontenot also would not be disappointed if they end up bypassing a quarterback altogether in the 2022 draft because there are other ways to add to a quarterback room. For instance, Atlanta signed AJ McCarron to back up Ryan on the Friday of last year's draft after not selecting a quarterback during the first round last year.

"It could be in the draft. It could be after the draft. It could be via trade," Fontenot said. "We're not going to limit ourselves to any possibility. We're going to turn over every stone and whether it's in the draft or not, we'll add to that room."

Smith said he has more input on when the Falcons may or may not take a quarterback because of the gravity of the decision to the overall construct of the team. Ultimately, that decision would be collaborative between Fontenot and Smith.

"That's the one thing about football, especially professional football, it's such an enormous decision to make," Smith said. "Especially if you're going to invest, it's the most important position in professional sports.

"For better or worse, the NFL and that position, it's extremely important to make this thing go, so yeah, you're looking at it. It's a huge investment."