FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Only three days after taking advantage of his wealth of receiving options for the best game of his career, Desmond Ridder has been provided yet another playmaker in the Atlanta Falcons’ passing game.
Newly acquired wide receiver Van Jefferson said he caught a red-eye flight from Los Angeles following his trade from the Rams and arrived in Atlanta at 6 a.m. Wednesday. But first he received a phone call from Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, his former University of Florida teammate.
“He was screaming on the phone,” Jefferson said following practice Wednesday as the Falcons (3-2) prepared for Sunday’s home game against the Washington Commanders.
Jefferson said he was excited to learn he was acquired by the Falcons from the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday. The Falcons obtained Jefferson and a seventh-round draft pick in 2025 and sent the Rams a sixth-round pick in 2025.
Jefferson, 27, has only eight catches for 108 yards and no touchdowns this season, but has an opportunity to revive his career in Atlanta.
“I just want to come in and be a team player, whatever they want me to do,” Jefferson said.
Ridder passed for a career-high 329 yards and a touchdown in last week`s 21-19 win over the Houston Texans. Ridder completed 28 of 37 passes without an interception as 11 players were targeted and 10 caught passes.
“It`s huge,” said Ridder on Wednesday of his wealth of options. “We’ve got weapons everywhere. It takes pressure off me, not thinking that I have to do everything or I have to do too much.”
Ridder has leaned heavily on tight ends Jonnu Smith and Pitts and running back Bijan Robinson in the passing game. Now Jefferson joins the depth chart at wide receiver, where Drake London and Mack Hollins are the top options.
Pitts said Jefferson was “100% happy, he was excited he got a fresh start” when the two talked on the phone Tuesday.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith, the former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, said he had extra interest in tracking the young receiver’s progress because his father is former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, who played in Atlanta from 2000-02 near the end of his long career. Shawn Jefferson was an assistant coach for the Titans from 2013-15 when Smith was on the staff.
“You do feel good when you know what he’s about and obviously the tape matches it, too,” Smith said Wednesday of Van Jefferson. “It’s not just the personal relationship, but you feel good about bringing him into the locker room.”
Van Jefferson was a second-round pick by the Rams in 2020 who set career highs with 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns in the 2021 championship season before adding four receptions in Super Bowl 56.
Jefferson was made available for trade by the Rams after Cooper Kupp`s strong return from injury last Sunday against Philadelphia. A healthy Kupp added to the team`s surplus at wide receiver, thanks to the emergence of rookie Puka Nacua and third-year pro Tutu Atwell.
Jefferson said he hopes to make a quick adjustment to Atlanta’s offense and said he expects to be available this week. Ridder said that could be a challenge.
“It’s coming into a new offense for him so obviously it’s going to take a little time to get connected and make sure we’re communicating,” Ridder said.
Smith said he has seen a player be part of a game plan in a Thursday night game after signing with the team that week.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Smith said. “Just depends on what you ask him to do and how he can help fit the puzzle together and how effective a guy can be and where he’ll fit. … We’ll make that decision on Saturday.”
NOTES: LB Andre Smith Jr., who was released following Tuesday’s trade, and WR Keilahn Harris were signed to the practice squad. The team released WR C.J. Saunders.