Commanders’ fan favorite Taylor Heinicke to sign with Atlanta Falcons
Taylor Heinicke is leaving the Washington Commanders.
The fan-favorite quarterback agreed to a two-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons, according to multiple reports. The deal is worth up to $20 million — top-end money for a backup.
The Falcons are still expected to start Desmond Ridder — a third-round pick from last year’s draft who started the final four games — but Heinicke gives them a reliable backup with starting experience.
“Wanted to take a moment and say THANK YOU to Washington!” Heinicke wrote on Instagram. “The love and support has been unmatched the last couple years. The memories I’ll cherish forever. You gave me a second chance and it’s forever changed my life.”
Heinicke started 25 games (including the playoffs) for the Commanders over the past three seasons with a 12-11-1 record. More notable, however, was Heinicke’s journey to Washington: The Old Dominion graduate, who came into the league as an undersized, undrafted free agent, joined the Commanders more than midway through the 2020 season after being out of the NFL for more than a year — and then proceeded to start a playoff game in which he dazzled in a losing effort. The following seasons, the Commanders unexpectedly relied on Heinicke for good chunks of the season as he started 15 games in 2021 and nine games in 2022.
Atlanta also represents a bit of a homecoming for Heinicke. When the 29-year-old was out of the NFL, he lived on his sister’s couch in the Atlanta area. Heinicke also grew up in the region as he attended Collins Hill High School.
The Commanders had shown an interest in retaining Heinicke, but now his absence leaves a void at backup quarterback. Washington will continue to search for a veteran signal-caller to compete with second-year prospect Sam Howell for the starting job. Howell will be the team’s likely starter next season, though the coaching staff wants to see the North Carolina product outright win the job in camp.
Mid-tier veteran quarterbacks remaining on the market include Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater and Jacoby Brissett.
As for Heinicke, he’ll possibly have an opportunity to face his former team next season. The Commanders will travel to Atlanta for a game, though the NFL has yet to release the exact date because its scheduled release isn’t for another few months.
In Washington, Heinicke started a tradition of getting himself a new pair of sneakers in the opposing teams’ colors as a reward after every victory. So if Heinicke gets a chance to play against the Commanders — and win — then he’ll look to add a pair of burgundy-and-gold Air Jordans to his collection.