The Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan agreed to terms on a new five-year deal Thursday. The total amount of money on the deal is $150 million. The deal makes history, as Ryan becomes the first NFL player to average $30 million a year. Ryan and the Falcons did not wait long to remove Kirk Cousins’ crown as the highest paid NFL player. However, in contrast to Cousins’ deal which is fully guaranteed, only $100 million of Ryan’s is. The question is have the Falcons paid too much to their veteran quarterback or have they got it just right?
What Ryan means to the Falcons
After being drafted third overall by the Falcons in 2008 Ryan has consistently been an above-average quarterback. In 2016 he took that to new heights, throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. In his time with the Falcons, Ryan has done a good job of getting them to the playoffs but never quite able to get them over the line. Ryan’s arrival in Atlanta was all part of the healing process following Michael Vick’s conviction. Since then Ryan has been the clean-cut good-guy the Falcons needed. He truly is the face of the franchise in Atlanta.
Is he too old?
At 33-years old this seems a big commitment from the Falcons as this contract will take Ryan to age 38. If Ryan declines in the next couple of years, the final years of this deal may feel a mistake. However, we are now seeing quarterbacks play at a high level until late-30s and even into their early-40s. There’s no guarantee Ryan can be Tom Brady and play another 10-years but his play style gives him every chance. Ryan is a pocket passer, who does not put his body on the line, and avoids hits. With only the first $100 million guaranteed the Falcons have invested in the next three years of Ryan and will then have the option to move on if the level of his play declines after he turns 35.
Investing in the offense
After a down year in 2017 the Falcons have invested heavily in their offense for 2018. They signed guard Brandon Fusco as a free agent. They then drafted Calvin Ridley to be their second receiver, before grabbing Ito Smith as a backup to the running back position. Now the Ryan contract shows the Falcons believe they still have a window to win a Super Bowl. After a year in this new offensive system, Ryan should be able to perform at a higher level in 2018. He will probably never repeat his 2016 season but he likely does not need to. The Falcons now have a young improving defense that should be able to keep games tight. With all of these weapons at his disposal, Ryan should be able to score enough points to regularly win games.
The Final Word
I am never a fan of big contracts usually. I bemoan the Matt Stafford contract to anyone who will listen. However, this is completely different to the Stafford contract. The Lions are a long way from a complete team but the Falcons are different. The Falcons have a ton of young talented players and have already nearly turned them into a Super Bowl. The model many teams are adopting is to build a veteran team around a young cheap quarterback. The Falcons have the luxury to have a young team and can afford to pay their veteran quarterback. This contract may be a little painful in the latter years when they have other players they need to pay. However, in the short term not paying Ryan and developing a newly drafted quarterback would be a terrible waste of a talented roster.