On the surface, Taylor Heinicke signing with the Atlanta Falcons has limited fantasy impact. However, Atlanta could make good use of Heinicke's talents, with questions at the quarterback position but not the right draft capital to land a premier rookie.
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Heinicke signed a two-year deal with the Falcons that could be worth up to $20 million with incentives built into the agreement.
Putting this as gently as possible: You're not drafting Taylor Heinicke to be your fantasy quarterback. His impact in Atlanta could mean more off the field than on it. With the team releasing Marcus Mariota, they were left with Desmond Ridder, a 2022 rookie, and the practice-squad level Logan Woodside as the only quarterbacks on the team. Entering his sixth season, Heinicke will, at the least, provide leadership and experience in the locker room. However, if Ridder struggles, even in training camp, Heinicke's game experience could lead to him winning the starting job sooner or later.
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Heinicke started just 24 games in three years with Washington but appeared in 33. Over that time, he amassed 5415 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, plus another 431 yards and two touchdowns rushing. His rushing upside is what makes this an interesting fit.
As the Titans' offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith helped resurrect Ryan Tannehill's career in Tennessee. Tannehill rushed for over 400 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons with Smith. Last year, Marcus Mariota struggled as a passer but rushed for 438 yards and four touchdowns. So if Heinicke sees significant playing time and keeps his career 4.8 yards per carry, he could fit perfectly into Smith's offense.
Judging what this means for the playmakers around Ridder or Heinicke is a little more complicated. Ridder only started four games last year, and while he hyper-targeted Drake London, Kyle Pitts was out for all of those starts. Heinicke leaned heavily on Terry McLaurin as his top wide receiver in Washington, leading to a WR14 finish in 2021, when Heinicke started 15 games. If Atlanta enters the season with either Ridder or Heinicke, it shouldn't change your opinion on London or Pitts. They should perform comparably.
Washington is in trouble at quarterback. All the positives that Heinicke brings to Atlanta could've been used in Washington. Instead, the Commanders lost Heinicke and released Carson Wentz, leaving Sam Howell as the only quarterback heading into his second season. Heinicke did not play much in 2022, so it's hard to say Terry McLaurin or other Washington pass-catchers will miss him, but Heinicke could have been a solid backup in Washington.
Heinicke's situation in Atlanta almost mirrors what he would have faced in Washington: he is the backup to a second-year quarterback. Atlanta will give Ridder every opportunity to be their quarterback, and Heinicke will need failure from Ridder to get on the field. If he does, Henicke's rushing upside makes him attractive. He might be a fun waiver add later in 2023, but as of now, the fantasy value is almost nonexistent.