AP source: QB Heinicke returning home to sign with Falcons
By PAUL NEWBERRY
Setting up a competition at quarterback, the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with Taylor Heinicke on a two-year contract worth up to $20 million, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the contract cannot be signed until the official start of free agency on Wednesday.
For Heinicke, it's a homecoming. He was born in Lawrenceville and played at Collins Hills High School in suburban Atlanta.
Now, after starting 24 games over the last two seasons with the Washington Commanders, he is headed to the Falcons to compete for a starting job with Desmond Ridder.
Ridder started the last four games of his rookie season after taking over for Marcus Mariota with the Falcons headed toward their fifth straight losing season.
Ridder produced a 2-2 record while completing 63.5% of his passes for 708 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 64 yards while being sacked nine times.
While the Falcons have expressed confidence in Ridder's long-term potential, they are flush with money to spend in free agency and desperately needed more experience in the quarterback room.
Mariota essentially abandoned the team after losing his starting job, saying he needed to treat a knee issue. He was cut last month, providing the Falcons with an additional $12 million in cap space.
Some of that money is going to Heinicke, a fan favorite in Washington after he went undrafted out of college at Old Dominion and bounced around to four NFL teams and the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks before landing in the nation's capital.
Heinicke started the 2020 season on Washington's practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in late December.
He wound up making his second career start in the wild-card round of the playoffs after Alex Smith was ruled out with an injury.
Heinicke completed 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, and rushed for a TD in a 31–23 loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
In 2021, Heinicke began the season as a backup, but he took over the top spot again after an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick.
He led the Commanders to a 7-8 record in 15 starts, throwing for 3,419 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Heinicke also rushed for 313 yards and a score.
It was more of the same in 2022. Heinicke began as the backup to Carson Wentz, whose inconsistent play had Washington fans clamoring for a change.
Heinicke took over in Week 7 after Wentz was sidelined with a fractured finger. He guided the Commanders to a 5-3-1 record before Wentz returned in the next-to-last game with the team needing a win to stay in playoff contention.
An ugly home loss to the Cleveland Browns had the fans clamoring for Heinicke, to no avail.
Wentz has since been released after one season with the Commanders.
Now, Heinicke is on the move, too.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington contributed to this report.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated March 14, 2023
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