According to multiple reports, the Atlanta Falcons have traded quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2022 third-round selection (No. 82 overall). It represents the fallout of several occurrences involving both franchises that concerned other signal-callers. The Falcons swung-and-miss while publicly courting Deshaun Watson and now Ryan lands in Indianapolis. Ryan’s trade will incur a dead cap hit for Atlanta of $40.525 million, which represents the largest dead cap hit in the history of the NFL by almost $7 million.
The deal should solve Indianapolis’ quarterbacking woes following their decision to trade the underwhelming Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders in exchange for multiple mid-round draft picks. Ryan marks the second starting quarterback general manager Chris Ballard has acquired via trade in as many offseasons as he continues to aggressively attempt to fix Indianapolis’ longstanding issues under center.
The trade undeniably represents a victory for a Colts franchise given their dire situation at quarterback. Franchise signal-callers don’t grow on trees and acquiring Ryan was the best case scenario for Ballard as he sorted through options that potentially included Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota, and Baker Mayfield. Ryan is a better quarterback than all of those players and should help make the Colts playoff contenders in 2022 after they disappointingly failed to make the postseason in 2021 due to a Week 18 loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ryan’s advancing age (he’ll turn 37 in May) means he isn’t the long-term solution at the position, and Ballard may be partaking in this exercise again before we know it. In the meantime, it certainly improves their team.
From a Falcons perspective, it couldn’t have been easy for general manager Terry Fontenot to part with one of the most important players in Falcons history. Ryan departs the Falcons as the franchise’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards, and touchdowns. Fontenot has essentially embraced an impending rebuild by trading Ryan in exchange for draft capital.
Fontenot’s decision to draft tight end Kyle Pitts a year ago may receive further criticism. Atlanta decided to pass on selecting a quarterback with the fourth overall selection, opting for Pitts over the likes of Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the process.
Another domino is sure to fall inside Atlanta’s quarterback room. Former undrafted free agent Feleipe Franks is currently the only quarterback under contract with the Falcons for 2022. Former first-round bust Josh Rosen is a restricted free agent after spending time on Atlanta’s roster and could return on a deal that makes him the backup quarterback, but neither Franks nor Rosen are expected to start in 2022. That honor should fall to a player that isn’t currently on Atlanta’s roster.
Watch out for a reunion between Arthur Smith and free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota, who previously spent time together in Tennessee. April’s draft represents another opportunity for Fontenot to address the position. The Falcons currently own the eighth overall selection. Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett qualify as options, but it’s worth mentioning Atlanta passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback in the top 10 a year ago in what was perceived to be a much stronger class overall.
There are several angles to analyze on both sides. The Falcons are officially rebuilding. Acquiring Ryan means the Colts should be a playoff team in 2022.
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