Before the 2018 season even began, there was little doubt that a certain set of players were going to get big contracts. At the front of the list was obviously former MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, who would be looking for his second big payday since being drafted in 2008. Right behind him was left tackle Jake Matthews. In both cases, there was a large contingent of fans who said that one or both players did not deserve to get big deals. The noise around Ryan was that his contract would cripple the team and make it impossible to keep their young defensive core. For Matthews, the noise was that he wasn’t a top-5 left tackle and did not deserve the money.
The early results are in and it’s pretty simple: the money given to Ryan and Matthews has been money well spent.
The Falcons star QB got a 5 year extension worth 150 million total, with 100 million of it guaranteed. At the time, it was the biggest contract in NFL history and was certainly bolstered by Ryan’s 2016 MVP season, which was one of the top-10 best for a QB in NFL history.
So far, Ryan is earning every penny of that deal. Through 8 games, he’s fourth in the league with a 115.1 passer rating, 5th in TDs with 19, 4th in completion percentage at 70.8% and 4th in yards at 2,685. By advanced metrics, ESPN Total QBR has him at 77.6, which is 3rd in the league. Football Outsiders has him at 6th in DVOA and 5th in DYAR. PFF has him a little lower at 12th overall, but guys like Fitzpatrick are ahead of him on the list, so I have no idea what to do with that.
You can easily argue that Ryan is in the top-5 of all QBs this year and if his numbers hold up, he will end up topping his 2016 season, which led to the league MVP and his first ever first-team All-Pro.
Through the first eight games of this season, it’s pretty obvious that Jake has been the best offensive lineman on the team. Yes, he’s clearly been better than perennial All-Pro center Alex Mack. Offensive tackle rankings are a little harder to come by, but PFF has Matthews currently ranked as the fourth best left tackle in the league, behind only Terron Armstead, David Bakhtiari and Andrew Whitworth. Through eight games, he’s allowed 14 pressures, 9 hurries, 3 hits and 2 sacks. By comparison, Whitworth has allowed 20, 14, 3 and 3 in 9 games.
The 5 year, 72.5 million deal (41.35M guaranteed) that Matthews signed wasn’t even the biggest this year for tackles. That honor went to Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, whose 5 year deal was for 80 million and 50 guaranteed. Incidentally, Lewan is ranked 28th by PFF for all offensive tackles this year, only emphasizing even further how much Matthews has lived up to his contract so far.
Granted, it’s only 8 games into a 5-year set of contracts, but the early returns look very good. Matthews has slowly grown into the kind of left tackle you can keep around for 15 years, while Ryan has proven he was not just a product of Kyle Shanahan’s system. The Falcons paid a lot of money to keep those two players, and so far, they’ve been worth every penny.