The Atlanta Falcons have a new head coach in Raheem Morris and, subsequently, newfound hope for 2024.
But much of Morris and the Falcons’ success next season will be dependent on who takes over at quarterback, as the duo of Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke were dubbed “deficient” by owner Arthur Blank.
Atlanta, as owners of the No. 8 overall pick in April’s draft, has a few options - but it likely won’t have a chance at any of the draft’s top signal callers in USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels.
The Falcons could trade up, but it takes two to tango, and with each of the top three picks - the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots - needing quarterbacks, Atlanta may have tough sledding finding a partner.
So, what’s next? Better yet, who’s next?
According to NFL Network, Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who appears poised to be replaced by Williams, is growing into a viable option for Atlanta.
“This should be an active market, with teams such as the Falcons, in need of a quarterback but possibly drafting too late for a premium one, emerging as an option, along with any other team that doesn’t believe it can land a top QB in the draft,” NFL Network writes.
The Bears are expected to land a “premium” pick for Fields, sparked by his promising finish to the season and status as a respected locker room leader.
The 24-year old Fields played in 13 games for the Bears last season, completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,562 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 657 yards and four touchdowns.
A native of Kennesaw, Georgia, Fields grew up a Falcons fan; his parents were season-ticket holders.
Fields had perhaps his best game of the season against his one-time favorite team, going 20 of 32 for 268 yards and a touchdown while adding 45 yards and another score on the ground in a 37-17 win over Atlanta in Week 17.
Now, there’s buzz building about a potential homecoming for Fields this offseason.
"That’s the name many around the NFL connect to Atlanta, though it’s unclear for sure if that’s the spot,” NFL Network writes. “New head coach Raheem Morris will work with GM Terry Fontenot for the best option."
At his introductory press conference Feb. 5, Morris said he and Fontenot had only held surface-level discussions about the direction they’ll pursue.
Blank added Feb. 9 that each of the 14 head coach candidates he and the rest of the decision makers interviewed noted the need to get better at the quarterback position.
Be it through trade, free agency, or the draft, Blank acknowledged the need to add a new face.
And the Falcons, evidently, could be moving on from Ridder in the process.
"Once they acquire a new QB, potentially trading Ridder would be an option, as well,” NFL Network writes. “It might be a situation where a fresh start works for all parties."
Whether it’s Fields or another signal caller, the Falcons appear determined bring fresh blood under center.
And that, by all accounts, will be a significant decision that may set the tone for the rest of Morris’s tenure.