Colts, Falcons Complete Matt Ryan Trade

The Matt Ryan talks have produced an agreement. The Falcons are sending their 14-year starting quarterback to the Colts in exchange for a third-round pick, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

It is a 2022 third-rounder, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com adds (via Twitter). Rather than send the Falcons the Commanders’ third-round pick, the Colts included their own Round 3 choice (No. 82 in the upcoming draft) in this swap, ESPN’s Field Yates clarifies (on Twitter). This trade will arm the Colts with yet another quarterback solution, with the deal coming not long after Indianapolis shipped its latest one-and-done starter — Carson Wentz — to Washington.

While word of a Ryan-to-Indianapolis deal leaked Monday, Pelissero adds the sides had been discussing it since before Deshaun Watson was dealt to Cleveland (Twitter link). The Falcons met with Watson and were prepared to trade for him, but Schefter notes (on Twitter) Ryan did not ask for a new contract after Atlanta came up short in that pursuit. That could be in the works with the Colts, but Ryan is still tied to the five-year, $150MM deal he signed in 2018. That extension runs through 2023.

Ryan, 36, will follow Watson, Wentz and Russell Wilson in being traded over the past two weeks. The quarterback market led to a major domino in Watson, who chose the Browns after they made an unprecedented extension offer. The fallout from that transaction will also give the Falcons and Colts new starting quarterbacks, with Baker Mayfield set to move soon as well.

The Falcons will take on an NFL-record $40.5MM in dead money by trading Ryan now, but they are sending the former MVP to the Colts before paying him a $7.5MM roster bonus. Atlanta delayed Ryan’s bonus to 3pm CT today, and Indianapolis is now responsible for it. The Colts, however, cleared more than $20MM in salary by trading Wentz. Despite Ryan entering March with what would have been a record-setting $48.7MM salary cap hit, he is tied to only this bonus and a $17.2MM base salary for the 2022 season.

Since 2017, the Colts have used five different Week 1 starting quarterbacks — Scott Tolzien, Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers and Wentz. Ryan will join this succession and strip Indianapolis of another draft asset. But the Wentz drama left the Colts with a glaring QB need. Mayfield wanted to fill it, but Ryan — despite being nearly 10 years older than the disgruntled Browns QB — will have that opportunity. The Colts sent seven players to the Pro Bowl last year but failed to make the playoffs, combusting with ugly losses to the Raiders and Jaguars to close the season. They will count on Ryan to avoid such a fate next season.

Indianapolis lost its 2022 first-rounder by trading for Wentz but picked up two additional thirds — one of which could be upgraded to a second depending on Wentz’s Washington playing time. That gave the team some flexibility regarding its next QB move. The Colts will still have second- and third-rounders in the 2022 draft.

Ryan arrived in Atlanta as the 2008 No. 3 overall pick — Thomas Dimitroff‘s first draft choice as Falcons GM — and quickly filled the hole Michael Vick‘s prison sentence created. Ryan took the Falcons to six playoff berths, with his Georgia run peaking with a 2016 MVP campaign and a slot in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons’ historic collapse that night keyed a downhill slide. Although Atlanta made the playoffs the following year, the team has produced four consecutive losing seasons since. Ryan seemed out of place on the current Falcons, who are launching a rebuild behind new GM Terry Fontenot. HC Arthur Smith said shortly after the 2021 season’s conclusion he wanted Ryan back, but the team is going in a different direction.

Ryan has not made a Pro Bowl since that MVP season, and he ranked 21st in QBR last season — 12 spots behind Wentz. The Boston College alum, of course, is far more accomplished than the previous Colts passer; he ranked 14th and 16th in QBR in 2019 and ’20, respectively. The Colts have work to do at wide receiver, but they still feature one of the NFL’s better offensive lines and just added Yannick Ngakoue to a solid defense.

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