Sources: Taylor Heinicke to join Falcons as Desmond Ridder’s backup

The Atlanta Falcons plan to sign quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal worth up to $20 million, sources confirm to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, adding the former Washington Commanders fans 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 their failed pursuit of Deshaun Watson.

The Falcons, which own the eighth overall pick in next month’s NFL draft, are still a candidate to draft a quarterback and have been linked to several veteran signal-callers this offseason.

Heinicke, who turns 29 on Wednesday, has started 24 games over the last two-plus seasons with the Commanders, going 12-11-1 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 as the Commanders went 5-3-1. On December 24, he was benched in the fourth quarter of a 37–20 loss at San Francisco. 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 its battle with the COVID-19 outbreak. In an often told story, he was sleeping on his sister’s couch while taking math classes at Old Dominion University, where he had acted in college. He began the 2021 season as the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but became the starter when Fitzpatrick injured his hip 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 of play and rumbling late-stage rallies. He has passed for 5,745 yards in his career with 34 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions.

ESPN’s John Keim contributed to this report.

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