Skip to main content

Falcons GM Terry Fontenot: Quarterback 'a top priority for us this offseason'

The arrival of head coach Raheem Morris doesn't figure to be the only sign of change in Atlanta this upcoming season.

Terry Fontenot is gearing up for the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine and the official start of free agency on March 13. During an appearance on The NFL Report last week, the Falcons general manager said the club will be keying in on the quarterback position during the 2024 offseason.

The only remaining question is what route Atlanta takes to make that potential upgrade. 

"That's a top priority for us this offseason, and it's exciting," Fontenot told NFL Network's Steve Wyche and James Palmer. "Again, not only people that have been in the building, but people outside of the building from Raheem (Morris) and (offensive coordinator) Zac (Robinson), (QBs coach) T.J. Yates, (assistant coach) Ken Zampese, (assistant QBs coach) DJ Williams -- we have a lot of really smart people in the building. We're going to spend a lot of time together, make sure we attack that the right way. We're not going to close any doors, be it trades, free agency, the draft. We will make sure we keep an open mind there and we're going to attack it and make sure we get it right."

Fontenot's declaration isn't a shock. The talented roster he helped build in Atlanta didn't live up to expectations in 2023 due to inconsistencies at quarterback.

Desmond Ridder's turnover-prone play led to a midseason QB change despite the Falcons being in first place in the NFC South. Taylor Heinicke took over in Week 9 but lost his first start before an injury forced the veteran out early the following game, which thrust Ridder back into the starting lineup. Ridder showed some signs improvement while Heinicke was on the mend, but he was relegated back to the bench after a dismal performance against the last-place Panthers. With the Falcons still in contention for a division title, Heinicke was again named the starter for the final three weeks of the season. He led the Falcons to a season-high 29 points in the first game of that stretch, but another injury forced him out once again in the first half of his next start.

The Falcons lost four of their last five games and finished out of playoffs, leading to Arthur Smith's dismissal after his third consecutive 7-10 season. Ridder and Heinicke remain under contract in 2024, but options for a potential upgrade seem too good to pass up entering this offseason.

Free-agent passers are on the table with Kirk Cousins topping that list, and Justin Fields' uncertain future in Chicago might depend on what the Bears decide to do with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Fontenot declined to speak on Fields, citing potential tampering violations, but the QB is a player he knows very well having had the opportunity to draft him during his first season as GM. Fontenot, who selected Kyle Pitts instead, did say he would take into account the full scope of any player's career if he decided to make a big move.

"You evaluate players at every point in their career," he said. "That's why it's so critical as we go through free agency and possible trades, when evaluating every player you're never going to look at a report from last year or the year before, we're going to look at the evolution of the players. So, yes, to answer your question, we have to be detailed and evaluate players in every phase."

Atlanta holds the No. 8 overall pick in the draft, and trading up for the opportunity to select from a healthy crop of QB prospects is also an option. Fontenot mentioned that those discussions might begin while he simultaneously gets a first-hand look at the this year's batch of soon-to-be rookies.

"You keep that open line and you start talking right now just touching base with because you have some GMs that were just put in place in some areas, so you make sure you have that line of communication open," Fontenot said. "You spend time at the combine, and so we're always talking about everything -- we're very open to communicate. It's going to be a fun year because I would say it's a very strong draft."

With an established offensive line, untapped playmakers at the skill positions and a better-than-average defense, the Falcons seem like a team that's one signal-caller away from contention entering 2024. What Fontenot is able to get done in the coming months at quarterback may very well determine the immediate outlook of the Morris era.

Related Content