Sources: Falcons to sign QB Heinicke as backup
The Atlanta Falcons plan to sign quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal worth up to $20 million, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, adding the former Washington Commanders fan favorite to a quarterback room that once again will be in transition in 2023.
A source told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein that Heinicke is expected to enter training camp as the backup to Desmond Ridder, who started the final four games of his rookie season in 2022.
Marcus Mariota, Atlanta’s starter for the first 13 games, was released last month. Mariota signed with Atlanta last year on the same day the Falcons traded longtime franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis after a failed pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
The Falcons, who own the eighth overall pick in next month’s NFL draft, still are a candidate to draft a quarterback and had been linked to multiple veteran signal-callers this offseason.
Heinicke, who turns 29 on Wednesday, started 24 games over the past two-plus seasons with the Commanders, who went 12-11-1 with him as their starter compared to 3-8 with anyone else.
Last season, Heinicke replaced an injured Carson Wentz and threw 12 touchdown passes to six interceptions over nine starts as the Commanders went 5-3-1. He was benched in the fourth quarter of a 37-20 loss to San Francisco on Dec. 24. Heinicke did not play again, as Wentz started the next game and Sam Howell started the season finale.
Washington signed Heinicke in December 2020 during the height of their battle with COVID-19 outbreaks. In an oft-told story, he had been sleeping on his sister’s couch while taking math classes at Old Dominion University, where he starred in college. He began the 2021 season as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup, but became the starter when Fitzpatrick sustained a hip injury in the second quarter of the season opener.
Heinicke started 15 games for Washington in 2021, throwing 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while becoming a fan favorite for his style and penchant for late rallies. He has thrown for 5,745 yards with 34 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions in his career.
ESPN’s John Keim contributed to this report.
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