Falcons cut veteran quarterback Mariota, gain $12 million in cap room


ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons released quarterback Marcus Mariota on Tuesday, a move that was expected after the veteran was benched late in the season.

The Falcons were 5-8 with Mariota as the starter before rookie Desmond Ridder started the final four games, winning two.

“We really appreciate Marcus and all the things he did while he was here, personally, professionally, great man,” general manager Terry Fontenot said Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine.

“We just feel we’re doing what’s best for the team at the time, but appreciate him and what he did while he was here.”

Mariota signed a $10.5 million, two-year deal with Atlanta after the Falcons traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to Indianapolis. Mariota completed 185 of 300 passes for 2,219 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He rushed for 438 yards and four touchdowns.

After Mariota was benched, he left the team to have season-ending knee surgery. The Falcons are expected to save approximately $12 million in salary cap space by cutting Mariota.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said at the Super Bowl he is excited about building the team around Ridder. Fontenot also had praise for Ridder and said the team will look for help at the position in the NFL draft or free agency.

“We’re going to add to the position and we’ve been really clear with how we feel about Desmond Ridder and what he’s done to this point in his career, his makeup and just the way he’s handled every role that he’s been in and what he did over the last four games of the season,” Fontenot said.

Fontenot said Ridder “dealt with adversity, he got off the mat and kept fighting. Desmond has done some good things and we know he’s going to continue to improve this offseason and yet we’re going to add to the position whether it’s free agency, the draft or both.”