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Why it makes sense to consider drafting a backup quarterback in 2016

It's looking to the future, something the Falcons haven't done well over the last decade.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

You're going to accuse me of writing a clickbait article, here, but I believe it's fair to have an open and honest discussion about Matt Ryan's future with the Atlanta Falcons for approximately three seconds before all start flinging poo at one another. It is the American way.

Let's start by making a few things clear immediately:

  • Matt Ryan is starting in 2016, and almost certainly will again in 2017. I tend to view 2016 as a blip on his radar rather than a worrying sign of his decline, and so does the team.
  • Ryan's contract is set up in such a way that the team would only save $5 million by cutting him in 2016, and just $13 million (with over $10 million in dead cap) for 2017. In 2018, the last year of his current deal, he carries a $21.65 million cap hit, but just $2.4 million of that is dead money.
  • If you think Ryan isn't going to finish his career in Atlanta, it's fairly obvious the Falcons would need to draft a long-term replacement either this year or next, to give that player time to learn in the system. That assumes, of course, that Atlanta doesn't go into 2018 with a top five draft pick. I shuddered typing that.

Given that you could reasonably cut ties with Ryan in 2018 if he went downhill, there isn't a lot of downside to trying to grab a long-term project you like, though the limited draft picks this year do give me pause. The Patriots have gone this route multiple times, drafting quarterbacks they like to groom in case something happened to Tom Brady, and they make excellent trade chips down the line if your quarterback (as is likely the case with Ryan) is around for the long haul. At worst, you end up with a decent backup you can try to flip for assets, and if something does happen that splits the Falcons and Ryan, you now have a player with two years of seasoning who may deserve an extended look.

Ultimately, it's a solid bet that the franchise's career leader in every significant passing category will play his entire career in Atlanta, and whatever you think of Mohamed Sanu, the Falcons have invested significant resources already this offseason to ensuring Ryan can thrive in his second year in Kyle Shanahan's system. If he bounces back in 2016, as I suspect he will, the calls for his head should die down. I'd still like to see the Falcons thinking about their long-term backup, at least, instead of returning to Sean Renfree and Matt Schaub for yet another year.

How about you?