We are nearing one year into the Atlanta Falcons’ new duo of head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot. Despite a full offseason and playing 15 games, fans have no idea what to expect with Matt Ryan’s future.
We know Ryan is turning 37 this offseason. It is old, however, Ryan has miraculously stayed healthy despite some brutal offensive lines. We know Ryan has managed to avoid those injuries and surgeries that force other quarterbacks into early retirements. We know Ryan’s contract is expensive thanks, in part, to multiple restructures. We know Ryan has not been pushing for a trade.
We do not know how Ryan or the team view Ryan’s future in Atlanta. We do know that league executives think Ryan may be on the move, per Mike Sando of The Athletic. Looking at potential Ben Roethlisberger replacements for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one league source likes Ryan’s fit.
“Matt Ryan is a name that would intrigue me,” an exec from a team that has researched the quarterback market said. “You are rebuilding in Atlanta. If you can get a decent package for Matt Ryan, do you do it? He’s a Pennsylvania guy, albeit from Philly. The Falcons would save cash. That one is interesting. You probably get 3-4 years if you are Pittsburgh. I don’t see Tomlin as a blow-it-up, total-rebuild type.”
Ryan is and has been well-regarded around the league despite, for instance, this statistically down season thanks in part to an embarrassing lack of talent at wide receiver and along the offensive line. He would make sense for a playoff-caliber team with no good answer at quarterback, like the Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Denver Broncos.
For Ryan, he may be interested in moving to a competitor and hoping for a late-career resurgence, like Matt Stafford is (sort of) having with the Los Angeles Rams. He should have an opportunity to win it all, and the Falcons look years away from competing in earnest.
For the Falcons, trading away Ryan creates yet another big roster hole. Atlanta would free up about $8 million in cap space (or even more if the trade is designated as a post-June 1st trade), however, the Falcons could also find cap relief with an extension. The team has no realistic prospects to take Ryan’s place on the roster. The Falcons may be outside of the reach for the top quarterback, or even top quarterbacks, in the NFL Draft, assuming there are quarterback worth going early.
There is currently little consensus on if Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett, Nevada QB Carson Strong or Liberty QB Malik Willis are worth a top pick or if any are franchise quarterbacks. If looking at the draft, the Falcons would likely be stuck forcing the rookie into a terrible situation, as the Falcons are unlikely able to fix the defense, the offensive line, the run game, and the wide receiver depth chart in one more offseason.
Potential free agent quarterbacks leave little to be excited about. There are a few uninspiring names like Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Mitchell Trubisky, or even Baker Mayfield if he were to become available.
Perhaps the Falcons get bowled over with a trade offer, with something in the Stafford range, and make the trade. It would almost certainly guarantee another painful 2022 season, and perhaps even 2023 season. That may be tough for fans to stomach after painful seasons from 2018 through 2021. Ultimately, trading for Matt Ryan may make more sense for the other team and less for the Falcons.