NFL free agency: Falcons reportedly set to sign former Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke

Heinicke started 24 games over the past two seasons for the Commanders

The Atlanta Falcons reportedly agreed to contract terms with a quarterback on the second day of the NFL’s legal tampering period.

Taylor Heinicke agreed to a deal with the Falcons that can be worth up to $20 million, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Heinicke’s addition to Atlanta’s quarterback room presumably solidifies that the Falcons won’t pursue Lamar Jackson with Desmond Ridder also on the roster.

Heinicke, who turns 30 on Wednesday, started nine games for the Commanders in 2022 after taking over as the team’s starter from Carson Wentz. He completed 62% of his passes and threw for 1,859 yards with 12 TDs and six interceptions.

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He started for half of the 2022 season after he was the starter for the majority of the 2021 season following Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hip injury. Heinicke threw for 3,419 yards and 20 TDs and 15 interceptions in 16 games two seasons ago. His first career start came in January of 2021 when he was forced to start the Commanders’ playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons seem committed to giving Ridder every chance to earn the starting quarterback job ahead of the 2023 season after drafting him in the third round in 2022. Ridder completed 64% of his passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns over four starts at the end of his rookie season. And with Heinicke now on the roster, the Falcons have a quarterback with a lot of recent starting experience who they can turn to if Ridder struggles.

The Falcons previously said they wouldn’t be pursuing Jackson after he signed a non-exclusive franchise tag with the Baltimore Ravens. By signing the non-exclusive tag, Jackson was free to negotiate an offer sheet with other teams. And if the Ravens didn’t match that offer sheet, Jackson could leave in a trade for two first-round picks.

Atlanta has an offense with TE Kyle Pitts and WR Drake London and both the salary cap space and the draft capital to make a deal for Jackson happen. But the Falcons said after Jackson signed the tag that they wouldn’t pursue the 2019 MVP even though there was a glaring need for another quarterback on the roster. And now that Heinicke appears to be that other quarterback, Jackson’s list of potential destinations looks to have gotten smaller again.