The Atlanta Falcons’ decision to fire head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff after starting the 2020 NFL season 0-5 seemed to be a bit of a surprise. If nothing else, respected Falcons owner Arthur Blank seems to value commitment. Some thought the pair would be given the rest of the season.
Alas, that wasn’t the case. Atlanta decided that it didn’t make sense to delay the inevitable. It has now raised questions about Super Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan’s future with the Falcons.
Blank answered questions from the media on Monday, one day after the Falcons made the firings of Quinn and Dimitroff official. There was one interesting tidbit from said press conference.
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“I love Matt, much like I love Dan, I love Thomas. Matt’s been a franchise leader for us. A great quarterback. One of the leading quarterbacks in the last 13 years in the NFL,” Blank said. “So I hope he’s gonna be part of our plans going forward. But that will be a decision that I won’t make.”
This comment was specifically in response to a question regarding whether the 35-year-old Ryan will be playing into his 40s. Obviously, Ryan is better off answering this than his owner. With that said, the two have had a longstanding and good relationship since Atlanta selected Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
“You know, Matt has the ability to play at a very high level, even at this age. Whether that’s gonna continue or not, I’m not sure,” Blank continued. “I appreciate his willingness to consider doing that, and the level of what he’s played for us for 13 years, which has been incredible. So I — we’ll have to see. But then again that’s gonna be a decision at the end of the day that’ll be — part of it will be up to the player and part of it will be up to the coaching staff.”
That clarifies things a tad. Basically, Blank is saying that it’s going to be up to Ryan, the new coach and the new general manager to make this decision. At 35, there’s a chance Ryan will not want to be part of what promises to be a rebuild with the Falcons.
Matt Ryan and his contract will play a role here
Ryan inked a five-year, $150 million extension with the Falcons back in May of 2018. At that time, it was the richest contract in NFL history. It will take him through the 2023 season. Here’s the salary cap break down moving forward.
- 2021: $40.91 million
- 2022: $41.66 million
- 2023: $36.61 million
These are numbers the Falcons might not want to pay for an aging quarterback as the team potentially attempts to rebuild. Primarily, Atlanta must improve a defense that is giving up north of 32 points per game. No matter how good your quarterback is, it’s hard to remain competitive with such a bad defense.
2021 NFL Draft: Falcons could find a replacement for Matt Ryan in April
Boasting an 0-5 record, it seems highly likely that Atlanta will have a top-five pick when the 2021 NFL Draft comes calling. Heck, there’s a chance that it could nab Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the top selection. Imagine going from Ryan to Lawrence. That would be insane.
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Even if the Falcons are not in that position come spring time, the 2021 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded at quarterback. This includes potential first-round picks in that of Justin Fields (Ohio State), Trey Lance (North Dakota State) and Kyle Trask (Florida). Any of these options would likely give the Falcons an eventual heir-apparent to Ryan.
Matt Ryan trade value
Even at 35 years old, Ryan is the type of prototypical quarterback who can easily play into his 40s. Think Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He’s under contract for the next three seasons and continues to play at a high level.
The former NFL MVP is completing over 67% of his passes while averaging 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions per season since the start of the 2016 campaign. Thus far this season, Ryan has tallied 1,472 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in five starts.
What does this all mean? Ryan would likely net the Falcons a first-round pick and change in return. Any contending team acquiring him wouldn’t be looking at a mere stopgap option. That changes the dynamics in a big way.
Whether this means Ryan will in fact be dealt following the 2020 season remains to be seen. There’s a lot of moving parts here. It will depend on the quarterback himself as well as who the next head coach and general manager is.