Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has stuck with the organization through the good times and the bad. That’s why it was such a surprise that Atlanta openly flirted with acquiring Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson over the past week.
In fact, some say that Atlanta held a 28-3 lead over the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints for the quarterback before Watson shockingly opted to head to Cleveland.
This obviously created a rift between Ryan and the Falcons. It has now come to a culmination. On Monday, the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts.
To say that this is a stunning development would be an understatement. Ryan, 36, has spent his first 14 NFL seasons in Atlanta. He led the team to a Super Bowl appearance following the 2016 season and has been one of the most-consistent quarterbacks of the modern era.
For Indianapolis, this move comes after the team traded enigmatic quarterback Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders earlier in the offseason. Previously linked to the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Indy certainly found a major upgrade here.
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Details of Matt Ryan trade to the Indianapolis Colts
- Colts get: Matt Ryan
- Falcons get: 3rd round pick in 2022
Remember, Indianapolis is without a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. That was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles for the aforementioned Wentz last offseason. Despite this, general manager Chris Ballard and Co. were able to acquire multiple picks from Washington for Wentz earlier in March.
Related: 2022 NFL Draft rumors
Winners and losers from Matt Ryan trade
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
As noted above, Indy was one of the teams most likely to land Garoppolo in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. In quickly pivoting, the Colts found a much better option under center.
- Matt Ryan stats (2021): 67% completion, 3,968 yards, 20 TD, 12 INT, 90.4 rating
- Jimmy Garoppolo stats (2021): 68% completion, 3,810 yards, 20 TD, 12 INT, 98.7 rating
While the numbers were similar in 2021, it’s not a stretch to say that Ryan has been heads and shoulders above Garoppolo throughout his career. From 2016-20, the former NFL MVP averaged 4,602 yards with go with 29 TD and 12 INT.
For a Colts team that believes it can contend for a conference title with above-average quarterback play, they got that in Ryan on Monday. It’s that simple.
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Loser: Atlanta Falcons drop the ball
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot was about to yield multiple first-round picks and other compensation to the Texans for the aforementioned Watson. We really want to know what the plan was there given that Atlanta is nowhere near contention even without elite-level quarterback play.
Now that the Falcons missed out on Watson and had to move on from their franchise quarterback, it’s back to the drawing board for the team. They’ll likely look to a weak 2022 NFL Draft class at quarterback while adding a stopgap option either via the trade market or free agency.
From a pure optics standpoint, the idea of publicly flirting with Watson when you have a franchise legend still under contract just doesn’t look good. It’s also a disaster from a salary cap perspective.
- Matt Ryan contract: 5 years, $150 million; $40 million dead cap hit by trading Ryan
Related: Matt Ryan and NFL’s highest-paid QBs
Winner: Matt Ryan heads to winning situation
It’s not a stretch to say that Indianapolis is now a top contender in the AFC after adding Matty Ice to the mix. This team is built to win. It has all the pieces in place to take that next step after the entire Wentz dramedy.
On offense, the Colts boast one of the best running backs in the game in that of Jonathan Taylor. They have a stud young receiver in Michael Pittman Jr. and one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
For Ryan, it’s clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for ther remainder of his career.
“You know, from the top down, (owner) Arthur Blank has been unbelievable to me my entire career. I am thankful that I was drafted here. I ended up in a building which is a great place to be a part of. It’s a great place to live. My family and I like it here. It’s the right place for us. I believe we have the right guys to win. And I want to do it here.”Matt Ryan to Sportsnaut back in October
Circumstances have changed since then. Atlanta’s flirtation with Watson coupled with a disastrous seven-win season made Ryan’s future with the Falcons more questionable. He’s now headed to a legitimate contender with a shot at that second Super Bowl appearance.
Loser: San Francisco 49ers
Indianapolis was the one team most linked to Garoppolo in trade talks. This comes at a tme when the list of quarterback-needy teams continues to thin out. For the 49ers, it was all about waiting to see what happened with Watson.
Now, there’s a decent chance that general manager John Lynch and Co. won’t receive anywhere near market value for the Super Bowl quarterback. Right now, the list of interested teams is likely down to the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
All of this comes on the heels of reports that the 49ers had an offer of two second-round picks on the table for Garoppolo. We wonder who leaked that story.
With San Francisco being pretty inactive in free agency, it still has Garoppolo’s $26.95 million cap hit on the books. Set to start second-year quarterback Trey Lance under center in 2022, it’s just a matter of time before the 49ers move off Garoppolo. We’re just not even sure there’s a trade market for him.