Arthur Blank explains why Falcons pursued Deshaun Watson but not Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson would probably be a member of the Atlanta Falcons by now. It's likely that all they had to do was sign him to a massive offer sheet.

Jackson was given the non-exclusive franchise tag by the Baltimore Ravens, meaning if the Ravens didn't match an offer, Jackson's new team would have to give up two first-round draft picks. That's cheap; go check other recent quarterback trades. The Falcons had a ton of cap space. Going into free agency, they were second in salary cap space among NFL teams behind the Chicago Bears, who aren't pursuing a quarterback.

Most of all, the Falcons had a need at quarterback. Nothing against Desmond Ridder, but Jackson is a 26-year-old former MVP. Ridder might turn out to be good. Jackson has already shown greatness.

And unless the Falcons are playing a game of poker that none of us can see through, they're passing on Jackson. It's confounding and presumably maddening to Falcons fans. At this week's owners meetings, Falcons team owner Arthur Blank tried to explain the lack of an offer from Atlanta to Jackson in free agency.

Why won't Falcons sign Lamar Jackson?

What makes the Falcons passing on Jackson even odder is that they pushed hard for Deshaun Watson. Watson had serious off-field allegations of sexual misconduct against him, which got worse after the Cleveland Browns beat out the Falcons to land him. Jackson doesn't have that baggage. And he's a better player.

Blank was asked about pursing Watson but not Jackson, which is difficult to understand. Here's what he said, via Josh Kendall of The Athletic:

It's strange how teams that desperately need a quarterback acknowledge that Jackson is one of the best in the NFL, yet they'd rather go with options such as Ridder or Sam Howell, in the case of the Washington Commanders.

Having a franchise quarterback in the NFL is gold. A quarterback with Jackson's résumé, at his age, has never been available like this before. And he waits. Apparently the Falcons don't think it's worth grabbing a former MVP quarterback. Not like they'll ever regret that inaction.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank explained why the team hasn't made an offer to Lamar Jackson. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank explained why the team hasn't made an offer to Lamar Jackson. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Falcons seem unlikely to pursue Jackson

Blank is correct that perhaps Jackson could have a shorter career than most quarterbacks. He has run more than any other quarterback before him. You can't sign Jackson assuming he'll be your quarterback 10 years from now. But for the next few years, Jackson will be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Blank is 80 years old, and you'd think he'd be focused on winning now. In the NFL, five years is a lifetime. And yes, Jackson will cost a lot. So does every elite quarterback. But Blank has money. The Falcons had enough cap space now and in the future.

Blank went on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta and further explained the team's view. He said the team needed to build on offense and defense, and that would be more difficult with Jackson taking up a lot of the cap. That's true for every team with a great quarterback, and it's not like those teams with great quarterbacks regret paying their stars. Blank also said the team is comfortable with Ridder, even though Ridder hasn't shown anything on the NFL level yet. Maybe he'll be great. He better be, because Falcons fans won't forget that their team passed on Jackson to give him a shot.

It makes very little sense for the Falcons to not consider Jackson, even with the cost and risk. He'd energize the fan base. He'd make the team the instant favorite in a weak NFC South. It makes you wonder about all teams perhaps freezing Jackson out over the issue of guaranteed contracts. It doesn't make much sense otherwise.

The Falcons will apparently move on with Ridder and the group of offensive linemen and safeties they decided to pay instead of Jackson. If they're wrong, it's a mistake the franchise won't recover from for a while.