“It’s a great opportunity for me to prove, not only to myself but to those who have believed in me,” Mariota said. “I’m excited. The last couple of years was a great reset.”
While the Falcons have a bunch of issues, Mariota is looking forward to working with one of the league’s top tight ends in Kyle Pitts, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and running back/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
“We are going to be really versatile and be able to do a lot of different things and that’s going to play to our advantage,” Mariota said. “I think this offense can hunt.”
If Mariota’s hunting comes up empty, the Falcons could turn to rookie Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick who led Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff last season.
Whoever handles the quarterback job might be a short-timer.
If the Falcons land one of the top picks in next year’s draft, they surely will be tempted by a QB class expected to include Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young from Alabama and Ohio State star C.J. Stroud.
This season is expected to be a washout for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2017.
By trading Julio Jones last summer and dealing Ryan in March to Indianapolis, the Falcons accepted a short-term mauling under the salary cap — they have a staggering $63 million in “dead money” — so they’ll have more room to rebuild down the road.
No wonder the Falcons are rated a 250-1 long shot to reach the Super Bowl by FanDuel Sportsbook — the worst odds for any team except the Houston Texans.
Coach Arthur Smith said he’s not concerned about the naysayers.
“There’s always going to be peripheral opponents out there,” he said. “You can’t pay attention to that. Good or bad, you see it ruin teams.”
The Falcons have one of the league’s most versatile players in Patterson, who led team in rushing (618 yards, six TDs), ranked third in receptions (52 for 548 yards and five TDs) and returned kickoffs.
He certainly enjoys being the center of attention, pulling up at training camp in a three-wheeler, interacting with fans and speaking bluntly through social media.
“He probably goes and searches his name on social media and feels all warm inside,” Smith joked.