NFL

Falcons pick up Mariota after Ryan departs for Colts

By Sports Desk March 21, 2022

The Atlanta Falcons have moved quickly to replace the outgoing Matt Ryan by signing quarterback Marcus Mariota in free agency.

The Falcons confirmed Ryan's departure to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, with the 36-year-old traded for a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Mariota – who was the second overall draft pick in 2015 – signs on a two-year contract in Atlanta having left the Las Vegas Raiders, where he was back-up to Derek Carr.

The 28-year-old is already familiar with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, with whom he worked when Smith was tight ends coach and then offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans.

Mariota mostly acted as an alternative rushing option for the Raiders in 2021, with his last significant game time coming in Week 15 of the 2020 season when he threw for 226 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Los Angeles Chargers. He also had nine carries for 88 yards and a touchdown in a 30-27 Raiders defeat.

It is expected the Falcons will still bring in another QB, so it remains to be seen whether Mariota is Ryan's long-term replacement or merely a stopgap. Atlanta have the eighth pick in this year's draft.

The Falcons previously had been interested in Deshaun Watson, who instead joined the Cleveland Browns in a trade with the Houston Texans.

It is widely thought negotiations for Watson played a role in Ryan leaving the team, although Falcons owner Arthur Blank released a statement following confirmation of his trade to the Colts, thanking the player and explaining the decision. 

"Matt Ryan has been the epitome of a franchise quarterback during his time here in Atlanta," Blank wrote.

"He has represented this organisation with great class, professionalism and leadership, both on and off the field, over the past 14 years.

"It is difficult to overstate what he has meant to me personally, our organisation, his team-mates and our fans. From his first day in the building, Matt has given his all in the pursuit of winning a championship for Atlanta.

"This business is not without its difficult decisions, and while this is one of the most difficult decisions we have faced as a club, we feel it is in the best long-term interests of both the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan.

"On behalf of the entire Falcons organisation, I wish him success as he continues his career and know that he will bring the same dedication and professionalism to his next club."

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