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Career Windows: How much longer will Matt Ryan play?

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Will the veteran QB be around for a while?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When fans talk about “windows” for a team, that conversation usually revolves around their QB. I don’t want to diminish the importance of other positions, but once a team has a franchise quarterback, they’re already a step ahead of half of the league.

As such, with an 11-year veteran like Matt Ryan, fans have been thinking more and more about his career window. Today, we’ll look at his window in a little more detail to see if it’s really closing soon or if we can breathe a little easier.

Ryan’s age and contract are factors

Born May 17th, 1985, Matthew Thomas Ryan will enter the 2019 season — his 12th in the league — at the age of 34. In NFL years, Ryan isn’t quite a senior citizen, but he’s certainly not a young guy either.

These days, quarterbacks are playing at a high level well into — and even beyond — their late 30s. Peyton Manning played until he was 39, Drew Brees is still playing at age 40 and Tom Brady at age 41. Ryan has indicated he would like to play into his late 30s and maybe even his early 40s, which would give him between five to eight seasons left to play.

From a contract standpoint, Ryan will be here for at least two more seasons. After signing a massive deal this year, the team will find it very hard to move on from him for at least two more years, not that they’d want to. The last year of his deal will be 2023, when he turns 38.

Ryan is staying effective

So far, Ryan has shown no signs of taking a step back. His 2018 statistics were reminiscent of his MVP season in 2016. If anything, Ryan’s play seems to improve nearly every year. Ryan thrives in the intermediate passing game, so there’s no reason to think his arm strength will be an issue for years. He has taken more hits in the pocket in recent years, but he still has not missed a game since his 2009 sophomore season. Still, the team has to know these hits will add up so if he’s going to stay healthy, they’ll need to fix the issues on this offensive line in 2019.

Can Ryan be effective into his late 30s and early 40s? Maybe. Tom Brady is still playing at a very high level. Drew Brees led his team to the playoffs (and a crushing defeat hahahahaha). Peyton Manning won his last Super Bowl at age 39. Matt Ryan has stayed in fantastic shape and appears to be incredibly disciplined with how he takes care of himself. There’s no reason to think he can’t be effective for another five to eight years.

Looking ahead for Ryan

With Ryan’s current deal ending in 2023, it’s highly unlikely he plays that season under this contract. The team could look to redo a deal for him in 2022, though an extension in 2023 seems more likely. At that point, doing a five-year deal may not make much sense, assuming Ryan still wants to play past age 38. The team may opt for a shorter three or four-year deal with options to get out of the deal after two years.

As for who comes next, the team probably won’t draft another QB for the next couple of years. However, starting in 2021, don’t be surprised if the team opts to take a QB in the first couple days of the draft as they begin to think about Ryan’s long-term replacement. This would allow them to groom someone who could take over if Ryan decides to retire or if the team decides giving a 38-year-old QB a new contract isn’t tenable.

As it stands, we can reasonably expect Matt Ryan to be with the team for at least four more years and maybe a few more than that. He’s shown no signs of slowing down but Father Time will eventually win out.

It’s been amazing to watch Ryan grow and mature over the past decade. Let’s hope we get at least five more years of the same.