This Falcons-Cardinals Trade Shakes Up The Top Of 2023 NFL Draft

Monti Ossenfort, Terry Fontenot, Cardinals, Falcons
NFL Analysis Network

The Atlanta Falcons have been one of the busier teams in the NFL thus far this offseason. They had a lot of salary cap space heading into free agency and they have not been shy about spending it.

Atlanta spent good money upgrading their defense. They signed two players away from the New Orleans Saints, defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebacker Kaden Elliss. Safety Jessie Bates III, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, will be joining the secondary as well.

On offense, the Falcons signed right guard Chris Lindstrom to a five-year extension. They also re-signed fullback Keith Smith and right tackle Kaleb McGary. Tight end Jonnu Smith was acquired via trade from the New England Patriots, making quarterback Taylor Heinicke the only offensive player that the Falcons have signed away from another team.

The plan, right now, is for Heinicke to be the backup for Desmond Ridder. Ridder had a good start to his career, starting the final four games of the 2022 season as a rookie in relief of Marcus Mariota. He went 2-2, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 708 yards and two touchdowns, adding 64 yards on 16 rushing attempts.

Atlanta could certainly see what Ridder has as the starter before possibly needing to dip into the quarterback market next offseason. But, throughout the offseason, the Falcons have been linked as the favorite to land Lamar Jackson should he not return to the Baltimore Ravens. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire, so maybe the Falcons aren’t as sold on Ridder.

If that is the case, Atlanta should make an offer to move up in the 2023 NFL Draft. Currently slated to pick 8th overall, there is virtually no chance that any of the top quarterback options slip that far. If the Falcons fall in love with one of the top three prospects, they can try and make a deal with the Arizona Cardinals to move up in the draft.

A suggested trade package between the two teams is Atlanta sending picks No. 8 and 44 in the 2023 NFL Draft along with a 2024 first-round pick and Ridder to Arizona in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick. That would guarantee the Falcons getting one of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson to build their franchise around.

With Heinicke already in the fold, he can start at the onset of the season in case the rookie isn’t ready for the job yet. He proved in the last two seasons with the Washington Commanders that he is capable of keeping a team afloat as the starter for an extended period of time. The Falcons would also have a new face of the franchise after moving on from Matt Ryan last year.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Kyler Murray’s health, the Cardinals would have an affordable option in Ridder to step into the lineup. The extra draft capital will also allow them to start rebuilding the team in the vision of general manager Monti Ossenfort and head coach Jonathan Gannon.

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