Falcons Eyeing Matt Ryan Succession Plan

Going into his age-37 season, Matt Ryan is still on track to be the Falcons’ starting quarterback. The team passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones last year, however, leaving the 14-year starter without an heir apparent.

The Falcons took a risk by passing on prospects in a better QB draft compared to the upcoming group. They do hold the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft. That might be sufficient real estate to nab the top 2022 passing prospect, though it remains murky on who exactly that is going into the Combine, and Arthur Blank indicated the team needs to be prepared to grab Ryan’s eventual successor.

Our fans should look for a succession plan,” Blank said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I think that’s not improper. It doesn’t show a lack of confidence in Matt, but, you know, I mean, Father Time will get to all of us.”

No draft has commenced without a quarterback going in the top five since 2013, when only E.J. Manuel went in Round 1. Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral rank as first-round-level prospects, per ESPN’s Scouts Inc., which slots each as top-30 prospects but none as top-15-level talents. Quarterback demand will naturally push one or two near or into the top 10 this year, with the QB trade market certain to affect how some teams approach the upcoming rookie crop.

The Panthers have been linked to Pickett at No. 6, but the Falcons’ NFC South rivals remain interested in Deshaun Watson. Trading for Watson will remove Carolina from first-round considerations at any position for the foreseeable future. And, unless the Lions are keen on reaching for one of these QBs at No. 2, the Falcons could have a clear runway at quarterback. QB-needy teams will surely explore scenarios about trading in front of Atlanta as well.

Ryan’s presence could lead Atlanta to wait another year, but the team is picking in the top 10 for just the second time in the past 14 drafts. Ryan’s contract, which calls for an NFL-record $48.7MM cap number this year, runs through the 2023 season.

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