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Reviewing the disastrous Matt Ryan trade by the Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts swung a blockbuster trade for Matt Ryan in March. Giving up a third-round pick for a veteran quarterback brought in to provide stability for the team. Instead, Ryan was benched twice in favor of Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles.

Many analysts and anonymous NFL executives praised the trade at the time. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, it backfired. While general manager Chris Ballard seems to have survived another disastrous quarterback trade, Frank Reich wasn’t so lucky.

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Let’s review this now-infamous deal and analyze where the Colts go from here.

Looking back at what seemed like a stroke of genius by Colts

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Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts’ offseason was put into chaos when owner Jim Irsay made it clear that Carson Wentz no longer needed to be a part of the organization. Forcing GM Chris Ballard to trade Wentz plus a 2022 second and seventh-round draft picks in exchange for a 2022 second and third-round draft pick plus a 2023 conditional third-round draft pick. The pick in ‘23 could have become a second-rounder if Wentz played 70% of the snaps.

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With that deal made, the next part was for the Colts to find a new starting quarterback or start Sam Ehlinger. The Colts were lucky that Atlanta had upset Matt Ryan when they tried to acquire Deshaun Watson. Atlanta allowed Ryan to find a trade partner to his liking and he chose Indianapolis. 

The Colts sent a 2022 third-round draft pick to Atlanta in exchange for Ryan. The team was able to restructure Ryan’s contract as well to help him fit in with their salary cap. At the time, both of these trades were works of magic. 

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It was widely known that the Colts wanted to move on from Wentz. So, there wasn’t a significant need for any team to trade for him. Regardless, Washington did just that. Then to get a quarterback of Ryan’s talent for just a third-round pick was equally impressive.

Matt Ryan and Indianapolis Colts are at a crossroads

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Indianapolis thought Ryan would provide more stability and leadership than Wentz, doing the little things to put it back in the playoffs. Instead, Ryan had his worst season in 15 years with countless drive-killing sacks, turnovers, and mistakes.

  • Matt Ryan stats (2022): 83.9 QB rating, 14-13 TD-INT, 67% completion rate, 38 sacks, 15 fumbles, 2.8% interception rate in 12 games

The Colts saw more than enough, especially once they were eliminated from playoff contention. After bringing Ryan off the bench earlier in the year, he was removed from the lineup for the final time and replaced by Foles.

This move was also made for financial reasons too. There is a $17 million injury clause that would automatically kick in if Ryan got hurt during the season. And since the future of Ryan with the Colts is in doubt the team didn’t need to be on the hook for any more money than it needed to be.

At this point with Ryan’s age and his downward play, the question has to be asked if he will retire after this season. If he does return, it may be with another team. It is most likely that the Colts draft their franchise quarterback in this upcoming draft. In this case, the organization will want to play the rookie from day one.

Colts will incur a serious cap hit to move on from Matt Ryan

If Ryan wants to keep playing, he and the Colts will need to part ways, which will probably be by way of a release.

In doing this the organization will, unfortunately, have to eat $17.2 million next season from this strategy of addition by subtraction. Since it is highly unlikely any team would have any interest in trading for the well-aged QB. Unfortunately, this trade to acquire Ryan will go down as a bust on Ballard’s record.

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