Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is coming up on the final year of his five-year deal and talk of his contract resetting the market has already started. If Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr could max out their deals, there’s no reason to doubt a former MVP and four-time Pro Bowl could break the bank, right?
Falcons owner Arthur Blank is already talking pay-cuts a year before Ryan is slated to be an unrestricted free agent. It’s a bold move considering Stafford recently agreed to an NFL-record five-year, $135 million extension with the Detroit Lions. Kirk Cousins, who is expected to be released by the Washington Redskins at some point, could even push that amount, depending on where he signs in the offseason.
However, Blank is making it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care what the going rate for good quarterbacks is these days. The Falcons still plan on pursuing a team-friendly deal with Ryan in the near future.
It’s a risky approach that could ultimately end up backfiring.
“I don’t care about the other quarterbacks’ movement,” Blank told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What I care about is taking care of our quarterback in a way that’s respectful to him and in a way that is respectful to the franchise. …We have to approach it in a thoughtful way, and thoughtfully I think that Matt is the kind of quarterback and kind of person that will understand, at this point in his life, this is also about what is his legacy going to be. He wants to win championships, and he wants to make sure the team is in an overall team position that we can compete for our own talent and compete for other free agents.”
The whole championships argument is a tough selling point from a team that has never won a Super Bowl.
Ryan would be better off waiting until the next year and seeing how the landscape unfolds before signing away his services on the cheap. There are other teams he could go to that might also put him into a position to compete for a Super Bowl.
The Denver Broncos might still be on the search for a quarterback in 2019, if they fail to find their franchise guy in the draft or free agency this year. There is also the Blake Bortles situation to consider in Jacksonville. His contract is up in 2019 as well, and the Jaguars might be in the market for a new leading man behind center. There’s no question Ryan would have a chance to compete in the playoffs with either one of those teams.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank replied “yes, yes” when asked by NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano on Super Bowl Live if the team is eager to make Ryan a Falcon for life.
Ryan certainly seems capable of staying among the NFL’s elite passers for the next five years. Although his numbers slid off slightly from his amazing 2016 output, he’s still playing at a level higher than likely free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins, who’s poised for a grandiose payday from one of several drooling NFL general managers.
Blank clearly understands this, but he also wants to make sure the Falcons remain in contention for playing a Super Bowl in front of the home crowd next February — and for years to come. To do this, he wants the Falcons to be careful in how they approach Ryan’s new contract and how it’ll affect the rest of the 53-man roster.
“I’m not saying the money is not significant, it is significant,” Blank said. “But I think he wants to win championships, he wants to win the Super Bowl. So part of what we have to keep in balance — and Matt has to help us do that — is that we want to sign a contract with Matt that is respectful and competitive with him, but one that positions the team to keep talent around him. … I don’t care who the player is, you can’t win with one player.”
These are concerns general manager Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the Falcons’ braintrust know all too well heading into the final year of Ryan’s current deal. Getting a long-term deal done this offseason would mitigate the constant storylines of whether the Falcons truly believe in Ryan’s capabilities to lead them to a Super Bowl title.
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