The Falcons released QB Mariota on the bench in the move

The Atlanta Falcons released quarterback Marcus Mariota on Tuesday in an effort to both free up more salary cap space and move on from a player who has lost his starting role.

Mariota started the first 13 games of the 2022 season for the Falcons before being benched for rookie Desmond Ridder, who started the final four games.

Mariota then left the team to have surgery on his knee and was placed on injured reserve. By cutting the 29-year-old, Atlanta saved $12 million on its 2023 cap hit — the Falcons already had the second-highest cap hit in the league at $56 million before the move.

Mariota’s release will cost the Falcons $2.5 million, but given that he won’t be on the starting lineup this fall, he’ll move on before the team pays him a $3 million bonus. Day Five the 2023 competition makes sense.

“When we signed him originally, it was structured in this way as far as where we were going to make decisions after the season and how [salary cap] The number will go up,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said Tuesday at the conference.

He signed with Atlanta last season on the same day the team traded Matt Ryan to Indianapolis after the failure of Deshaun Watson. This is Mariota’s second chance at a starting game after losing his first job with the Tennessee Titans in 2019 and spending the next two seasons as Derek Carr’s backup with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mariota completed 61.3% of his passes last season for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also excelled as a pass rusher with 85 carries for 438 yards, scoring four touchdowns, the second-most touchdowns of his career. He also knows it could be his last chance to show he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, acknowledging his past in Tennessee — where he was the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 only to lose his job to Ryan Tannehill in 2019. — and what he’s been through in his career.

“When I entered free agency [last year]I understand that if I get a chance to play again, it will probably be my last shot,” Mariota said. “Most people don’t get a second shot.”

Mariota showed some promise early in the season, including completing 92.9% of his passes in a win over the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Mistakes and inconsistencies led to Mariota’s benching in December. He threw for more than 250 yards in just one game last season — 253 yards in a 37-34 win over the Carolina Panthers in which he also threw two interceptions that he could have killed the Falcons the game – and he threw for less than 200 yards. in each of his last five games as a player. He also threw an interception in three of his four games.

Mariota played in 87 games — including 74 starts — in his eight-year career between Tennessee, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Teams went 34-40 when he started games, and Mariota completed 62.6% of his passes for 15,656 yards, 92 touchdowns and 54 interceptions. He also rushed 349 times for 2,012 yards and 17 touchdowns.

The Falcons have Ridder and Logan Woodside, who were signed to be Ridder’s backup after Mariota was placed on injured reserve, on the 2023 roster.

“We’re going to step up to the plate, and we’ve been very clear about how we feel about Desmond Ridder and what he’s done up to this point in his career,” Fontenot said. “His makeup and the way he handled every role he played and what he did in the last four games of the season. He solved problems. He kept fighting. So, Desmond did some good things. And we know he will. Keep improving this season.”

ESPN’s Stephen Holder contributed to this report.

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