Falcons should be all over Lamar Jackson; Texans are doing the anti-David Carr; and are Cardinals quiet quitting on 2023?

The first week of the new league year is in the books and the transaction gods have blessed us with a flurry of moves that have shifted NFL power balances. Some teams are gearing up for a rookie quarterback, another appears to be preparing for a season without their quarterback and the Lions are building a team that might be quarterback-proof.

First, let’s start with a team that’s blowing it big time by not trying to add an MVP-level quarterback.

Falcons should have been all over a Lamar Jackson trade

Lamar Jackson has had a quiet start to his time under the franchise tag with no teams making a push for him, for whatever reason, but there’s one team that should have swung harder to get Jackson than any other franchise: the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons were the first team to bow out of the Jackson sweepstakes following Jackson receiving the non-exclusive franchise tag from the Ravens. For multiple reasons, this made absolutely no sense — and the Falcons are willingly passing on an ideal option to reinvigorate interest in the team after a handful of poor seasons in a row.

Jackson is the player the Falcons need to have within their organization right now. Not only is he an ideal fit for what head coach Arthur Smith would like his offense to look like, but there might not be a fan base ready to embrace Jackson and his talents more than the Falcons'. Look, it’s not right, but there are still people who believe Michael Vick was a better quarterback in Atlanta than Matt Ryan. It’s an incorrect opinion, but not entirely uncommon in certain sectors of the fan base. That belief isn’t rooted in reality, but it is anchored in feeling, a feeling that hasn’t existed within the Falcons' fan base for quite some time.

Why aren't the Atlanta Falcons reportedly pursuing Lamar Jackson? We don't know either. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Why aren't the Atlanta Falcons reportedly pursuing Lamar Jackson? We don't know either. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The timing really couldn’t have been better for them to add a talent like Jackson either. They have a solid young core featuring Kyle Pitts, Drake London, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary and Tyler Allgeier.

Smith orchestrated a functional offense with Marcus Mariota as the starter for the majority of the season, so it’s not like Atlanta would be starting from scratch as far as installing quarterback runs would go. Jackson’s ability as a passer would significantly raise the ceiling on the Falcons' offense and give them the best quarterback in the NFC South. Since Jackson is on the non-exclusive tag, it would take only two first-round draft picks to acquire him this offseason — less than they were prepared to trade for Deshaun Watson last year.

The Falcons are high on Desmond Ridder, and he may turn out to be a quality quarterback, but there’s a 26-year-old former MVP quarterback out there who fits what the Falcons need on several levels. They even had the salary cap space to pull this off prior to filling out their roster in the early portion of free agency. Adding depth certainly would have been harder with Jackson, but his presence would help cover up a lot.

Reconsider, Falcons. Do the right thing. Search your heart, you know all of this to be true.

Are the Cardinals quietly quitting on the 2023 season already?

The Cardinals have had a very quiet offseason up to this point, using free agency to tinker with the bottom of their roster coming off an abysmal 4-13 season that forced a change at head coach and general manager. New head coach Jonathan Gannon and new GM Monti Ossenfort have a ways to go before the Cardinals can get back to competing with the top of their division.

So far, it doesn’t seem like they have too much urgency on that front. Defenders Zach Allen and Byron Murphy left for new teams in free agency and they each had contracts that the Cardinals could have been competitive with. The defense that Gannon is going to oversee during his first year in Arizona is a far cry from the defense that he coached all the way to the Super Bowl in Philadelphia. The front seven might be the worst in the league right now and the secondary is held together by safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.

It’s not like the Cardinals are strapped for cash this year. According to Over The Cap, the Cardinals have the third-most cap space in the league ($25 million) with the majority of big-name free agents gone. This take may look foolish in a few months, but the Cardinals seem ready to enter a rebuild in terms of talent, especially on defense. The most expensive free agent the Cardinals have signed is former Eagles linebacker Kyzir White, bringing in a contract worth $5 million per year on an annual average basis. They have space, they just aren’t or haven’t been able to use it in a more meaningful way.

Kyler Murray headshot
Kyler Murray
QB - ARI - #1
2022 - 2023 season
Comp Pct

There is a bit of a wild card here. The Cardinals could be operating in this manner because Kyler Murray likely won’t be on the field to start the season as he recovers from a late-season ACL tear. Even with Murray, the Cardinals were bound to face an uphill battle as they try to get back to the playoffs. Without him, they’re certainly in store for a long season, which might be functionally over by the time he’s ready to play.

How the Cardinals operate the top of the draft should shed light on what they view is possible for the 2023 season, or at least give a glimpse at the scope of their long-term plan. They could stand pat with the third overall draft pick and take Will Anderson from Alabama to give them one (1) legitimate edge player — or they could trade out of the third pick to a quarterback-needy team and pick up a future first-rounder in the process.

DeAndre Hopkins has constantly been in trade rumors this offseason and his potential loss would cement the Cardinals with a lousy roster that isn’t worth watching.

Are the Cardinals quiet quitting on the 2023 season or have they bungled free agency? That answer will become clear soon enough. Cardinals fans have to be hoping this is a long-term play to bottom out and add some valuable draft picks to the team for 2024 and beyond. Regardless, all Cardinals fans should find a new team to watch this season. Don’t waste your precious Sundays on this.

The Texans are doing the anti-David Carr

Houston has been a dumpster fire over the past few years, but for this brief moment, it looks like it's trying to build a quality supporting cast for whatever quarterback it drafts with the second overall pick. This organization knows firsthand from its experience with David Carr in 2002 that a young quarterback needs help to make things happen early — particularly along the offensive line.

Superstar left tackle Laremy Tunsil signed a massive contract extension with the team, and they traded for guard Shaq Mason, spent a first-round draft pick last year on Kenyon Green, and developed Tytus Howard into a strong right tackle in his own right. That’s serious investment into the offensive line for a team that is all but guaranteed to have a rookie quarterback start the majority of their games this year.

Not only is the offensive line in good shape now, the Texans have a few quality weapons to help take pressure off their new quarterback as well. Dameon Pierce had a standout rookie season and is now joined by former Bills running back Devin Singletary in the backfield. Houston also signed former Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz to a one-year deal that may end up seeing him in Houston for the long term depending on how he performs.

Wide receiver is still a weak spot on this offense, especially after trading away Brandin Cooks, but they have the draft capital to add serious talent at the position. The Texans have the 12th overall pick in addition to the second in the upcoming draft, and will have a host of wide receivers to choose from in terms of style and athleticism. The wide receivers room probably won’t be good this season, but that’s OK given the veteran talent they have at offensive line, running back and tight end. They even added a veteran quarterback in Case Keenum to help ease the new guy’s transition.

The X-factor for the Texans' offense this year is new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who is following DeMeco Ryans over from San Francisco. If he can successfully implement a version of the offense Kyle Shanahan runs for the 49ers, the Texans can be a scrappy offense in Year 1. The defense, well, yeah. The Texans have a lot of work to do. The offense has the potential to be productive right away with a rookie quarterback, which would be an impressive feat given where they were last season.

This team won’t be winning the AFC South in 2023, but getting to the point where a rookie quarterback would have legitimate help is a major win for this franchise. The Texans aren’t so scary for a young buck.

Lions having a low-risk offseason that could pay off in a big way for future years

Detroit knows what it is doing. Time will tell if the Lions will jump a major hurdle this season and make the playoffs for the first time under head coach Dan Campbell, but their process this offseason has been strong. Everyone knows how pivotal this upcoming season is for the Lions, especially if and when Green Bay loses Aaron Rodgers, and they’ve added some short-term pieces that have played strong football in recent seasons.

The secondary received a big boost this past week with the signings of safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley, both of whom were signed to one-year deals. Moseley is coming off a torn ACL he suffered last year with the 49ers, but when he’s healthy and at his best, he’s a legitimate starting cornerback on the outside. Gardner-Johnson didn’t receive the multiyear deal that he was looking for in free agency and has put himself in a position to hit the market again next season, when he can try and cash in if he plays well.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson headshot
C.J. Gardner-Johnson
S - PHI - #8
2022 - 2023 season

The Lions need a cornerback to pair with Jeff Okudah and a do-it-all safety like Gardner-Johnson is incredibly valuable in today’s NFL. If the signings don’t work out, they were just one-year dice rolls to see what they had in the tank and how they fit with the team. If they work out, the Lions have the inside track on signing both of those players to long-term deals. Along with Moseley and Gardner-Johnson, the Lions signed cornerback Cam Sutton to a three-year deal to stabilize their secondary.

Defensive lineman John Cominsky was re-signed on a two-year deal as he finally is starting to tap into the athletic potential that got him drafted by the Falcons in 2019. Cominsky is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the NFL and now the Lions will get one more crack at seeing what they can mold him into.

These are the types of bets that a team like the Lions should be taking. Guys who have proven or started to prove they can play with the long-term upside to keep them around if they're a positive impact on the defense.

All this hasn’t included running back David Montgomery, who is an upgrade over Jamaal Williams last season. The Lions know what they’re doing, folks. It’s weird. It’s different. But it’s time to embrace our new truth.