The Atlanta Falcons traded longtime starting quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts for a third round pick Monday afternoon. The move by the Falcons was brought about March 16th when Atlanta attempted to secure the formerly-exiled Houston Texans quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Watson considered waiving his no-trade clause to join the Falcons. However, Watson later signed a five-year, $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns on March 18th.
“Matt Ryan has been the epitome of a franchise quarterback during his time here in Atlanta,” Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank said in a statement. “He has represented this organization with great class, professionalism and leadership, both on and off the field, over the past 14 years. It is difficult to overstate what he has meant to me personally, our organization, his teammates and our fans.”
Before the Matt Ryan trade, the Falcons had $71,282 in cap space, according to Over The Cap. The trade saves the Falcons roughly $9 million in cap space, but also forces Atlanta to carry over $40 million in dead cap money for the 2022 season.
“From his first day in the building, Matt has given his all in the pursuit of winning a championship for Atlanta,” Blank continued. “His arrival in 2008 instantly made us a contender in the NFC and he’s been our quarterback through the most successful era in Falcons history. Matt led us to the playoffs six times, including two NFC Championship games, and the first Super Bowl appearance under my stewardship of the franchise. He holds every significant passing record in club history, is an All-Pro, an NFL MVP and is without question one of the greatest players in Falcons history. He will one day be added to our Ring of Honor, and it is my belief that a bust in Canton will follow in short order.”
Ryan will now suit up for the Colts, which has sights on competing for a Super Bowl. Anchored by running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receivers Mo-Alie Cox, Michael Pittman, and Parris Campbell, Ryan will have weapons at his disposal. Additionally, Ryan will have an offensive line that is regarded as one of the best in the NFL, anchored by perennial All-Pro, Quentin Nelson.
Ryan, will become the Colts’ seventh different starting quarterback since 2016. Indianapolis traded their former starter, Carson Wentz, to the Washington Commanders earlier this offseason.
Within hours of trading Ryan to the Colts, the Falcons and quarterback Marcus Mariota agreed to terms on a two-year contract. Mariota worked with current Falcons head coach, Arthur Smith, when he ascended to become the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator in the 2019 season.
Ryan started for the Atlanta Falcons from day one. On September 7, 2008, Ryan’s first pass was a 62-yard touchdown strike to Michael Jenkins. Ryan led the Falcons to the NFL playoffs in his rookie year, which was only matched by Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens. Ryan subsequently led the Falcons to the playoffs four times in his first five seasons.
Dan Quinn was hired in 2015 and named Kyle Shanahan his offensive coordinator. It appeared the Falcons were destined to turn the corner. In 2016, Ryan was named the NFL Offensive Most Valuable Player. Ryan led the Falcons to the Super Bowl after throwing 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while completing 69.9% of his passes.
However, the stain from Atlanta’s loss at Super Bowl LI did irreparable and irrevocable harm to not only the players, the coaches and overall, the organization. In the minds of the fans, Super Bowl LI was an unforgivable sin. Even though Ryan went 17-of-23 for 284 yards and threw two touchdowns, he was sacked five times.
Since that harrowing defeat, the Falcons made the NFL playoffs in the 2017 season and have not qualified for the NFL playoffs since then. A growing portion of the Falcons fanbase believed Ryan was good for empty stats and his best years were beyond him. During the NFL Combine, current Falcons head coach Arthur Smith told the press a trade involving Matt Ryan “depends on what the offer is.”
“It’s like the old Don Corleone: They give you an offer you can’t refuse, I think you’ve gotta take it,” Smith said on March 1. “But that’s with everyone. You can ask Terry, if somebody wanted to give a bag of balls for me, they’d push me out the door.”
Ryan finishes his Falcons career with 59,735 passing yards, 367 passing touchdowns and a 94.2 career passer rating, all franchise bests. Ryan also has the ninth most passing touchdowns in NFL history.
”I’ve seen firsthand from within the division and within the building the type of leader Matt is. We thank him for being the consummate professional throughout this process and having the open dialogue as we work towards the best long-term plans for both sides,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “This was a difficult decision, but it was made easier by Matt’s professionalism and understanding throughout.
“Our goal in every decision is to improve our organization for the long term. We believe today’s agreement is the best long-term decision, not only for our organization, but also the best for Matt at this point, which is important for us. We wish he and his family the best in their next steps.”