Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan To Remain Colts Starting QB

Matt Ryan returned to the lineup and guided the Colts to a victory in Week 10, but Indy has since dropped each of their past two games. Following the Colts’ loss last night to the lowly Steelers, head coach Jeff Saturday told reporters that the veteran quarterback will remain under center.

“Matt’s going to continue to be the guy,” Saturday said (via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra). “We’re going to keep moving forward, keep pressing forward with what we got. I tell the guys in the locker room, we’ve got the players in the locker room to do it. We’ve got the plays to do it. We gotta figure out how to execute in moments that matter. That’s really what we have to focus in on and hone in on.”

Following his unexpected hiring, Saturday gave Ryan an immediate vote of confidence by inserting the QB back into the starting lineup over Sam Ehlinger. The interim head coach has continually asserted that Ryan gives the Colts the best chance to win each week, and while the 37-year-old’s production has been down during his first season with the organization, he’s still completing passes at a 68.8 percent clip while going 4-5-1 as a starter.

On the flip side, the Colts’ offense was mostly responsible for each of the past two losses, with Ryan tossing one touchdown and one interception over that stretch. Plus, with the Colts sitting at 4-7-1, the team effectively has nothing to play for, so it makes some sense to give their second-year QB more playing time. In his two starts, Ehlinger completed 32 of his 52 pass attempts for 304 yards and one interception. He also added another 54 yards on the ground.

Colts Execs Attempted To Dissuade Jim Irsay From Jeff Saturday Hire

Of the 43 interim head coaches hired this century, the Colts’ Jeff Saturday move generated by far the most attention. Saturday’s inexperience headlined last week’s NFL news cycle, and high-ranking Colts staffers aimed to convince Jim Irsay to go in a different direction.

Both GM Chris Ballard and team president Pete Ward expressed reservations about Irsay’s plan to hire Saturday, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Others joined Ballard, who is in his sixth year as GM, and Ward, who has been with the Colts since before their 1984 Indianapolis move, in advising against the decision. But Irsay steadfastly pulled the trigger on Saturday, who is now 1-0 as Colts HC.

Irsay called Saturday during the Colts’ Week 9 loss to the Patriots, discussing the team’s protections. That discussion led to an offer to become Indianapolis’ interim HC. Had Saturday not accepted the job, Irsay would not have fired Frank Reich, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (subscription required). That points to Irsay’s conviction on the inexperienced coach while also revealing an obvious lack of desire to promote one of Reich’s assistants to the post.

[RELATED: Irsay Reaffirms Commitment To Ballard For 2023]

Some of Reich’s assistants have expressed displeasure with Irsay’s call, and it is safe to say the Colts’ staff will look considerably different next season. Following last week’s report of quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich turning down the opportunity to call plays, Rapoport and Pelissero confirm as much and note the Colts’ play-calling offer did not include any adjustments to his current contract. Milanovich, a former Grey Cup-winning head coach, has been Indy’s QBs coach since 2021, when the team promoted Marcus Brady to replace Nick Sirianni. The Colts fired Brady earlier this season.

Milanovich and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery — each of whom having play-calling experience, though most of it coming outside the NFL — will play a big role in game-planning, Saturday said. But Parks Frazier has made the unusual leap from assistant QBs coach to play-caller.

Saturday also had the freedom to bench Sam Ehlinger and reinstall Matt Ryan as the starter, a choice Irsay does not appear to have made available for Reich. The five-year Colts HC did not back the Irsay-driven pivot to Ehlinger, and Keefer adds the players were not behind the Ryan benching as well. Despite Ryan’s nine interceptions and 11 fumbles through seven games, Keefer notes the Colts’ roster viewed the veteran as the player who gave the team its best chance to win. Recovered from his shoulder injury, Ryan received first-team reps during Colts practice last week, Keefer tweets.

The Colts did enjoy the opportunity of facing a Raiders defense that has slipped from below average — under current Colts DC Gus Bradley — in 2021 to one of the league’s worst units. Las Vegas ranks 28th in both points allowed and total defense. The Colts still entered Week 10 as underdogs, and their Saturday-Frazier-Ryan direction nevertheless led to a victory. Moving to 4-5-1, the Colts remain a fringe AFC contender — record-wise, at least — and outings like Sunday’s will provide ammunition for Irsay’s hope of Saturday sticking around beyond 2022.

No interim HC has been retained since Doug Marrone kept the Jaguars’ reins, after the team fired Bradley, in 2016. Saturday moving into position to buck this trend would add to the scrutiny engulfing the Colts, but it is safe to say traditional norms regarding interim HCs do not apply here. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting interim stretches in modern NFL history.

Colts To Start Matt Ryan In Week 10

Today marks the beginning of the Jeff Saturday era in Indianapolis, after a controversial and nearly unprecedented move to replace Frank Reich as head coach. Saturday’s first game in charge will see a familiar face under center.

The Colts announced in advance of today’s contest that Matt Ryan will once again operate as the team’s starter. That decision comes after Saturday had announced earlier in the week that Sam Ehlinger would remain the No. 1, as he had for the past two weeks.

The 2021 sixth-rounder came in to replace an injured Ryan, though Reich insisted that the move was performance-related. The fact that it was Ehlinger, and not veteran Nick Foles who took over raised questions regarding whose decision it ultimately was to bench Ryan. It was later revealed that owner Jim Irsay – who was, of course, the central figure in naming Saturday as Reich’s replacement – drove the switch to Ehlinger for what was supposed to be the remainder of the season.

The Colts lost each of the Texas alum’s starts, including a 26-3 defeat to the Patriots last week. That marked the end of Reich’s four-plus-year tenure, but was not expected to produce a return to action for Ryan. The 37-year-old struggled mightily to begin his Colts tenure, one which the team initially stated they hoped would provide them with multi-year stability at the QB position. The longtime Falcon led the NFL in interceptions, fumbles and sacks allowed at the time he was benched, so it will be interesting to see how much of an improvement is made after time to heal and the installation of assistant QBs coach Park Frazier as offensvie play-caller.

Also of note in this situation is the notion that Ryan had playing-time incentives in his deal, and that it factored into the decision to replace him. Irsay recently rejected that, insisting that the many moves made within the organization in recent weeks have all been pointed at rescuing the team’s 3-5-1 season. Today’s contest against the Raiders will prove insightful with respect to Saturday’s and Ryan’s ability to accomplish that goal.

Colts Rumors: Saturday, Ryan, Fields, Rivers

The Colts made headlines on Monday when the team decided to fire head coach Frank Reich, naming former center Jeff Saturday the interim head coach for the rest of the year. The decision to appoint Saturday drew widespread surprise as Saturday has no former NFL coaching experience.

Team owner Jim Irsay defended the decision even claiming that Saturday could remain head coach beyond the 2022-23 NFL season, according to ESPN’s Stephen Holder. General manager Chris Ballard claimed that the Colts attempted to bring Saturday into the league coaching circle in 2019 as an offensive line coach and approached him about a position this year, as well. Saturday has reportedly served as a consultant for the team, with Irsay contacting him as recently as Sunday during the team’s loss to the Patriots to inquire about blocking issues, according to Zak Keefer of The Athletic.

Here are a few other rumors concerning the Colts:

  • In response to former Colts head coach Tony Dungy‘s recent accusations that the team benched starting quarterback Matt Ryan in order to stay within the boundaries of an injury guarantee in Ryan’s contract, Irsay attempted to set the record straight, according to Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. Irsay insisted that there are no playing time guarantees in Ryan’s contract. “There’s no such thing,” Irsay claimed. “There’s no bonus if Matt plays a certain amount of time.” If such an incentive does exist, it has not been reported.
  • Mishandling the revolving door of quarterbacks in Indianapolis was a factor that led to Reich’s dismissal, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. Breer posits that, instead of going after former quarterback Carson Wentz, the team should have moved up to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, something he reports “was a very real consideration for Ballard and Reich early in the process.” The team instead selected Michigan pass-rusher Kwity Paye, allowing the Bears the opportunity to move up and select Fields. The Colts would later trade Wentz away to Washington after one season.
  • One of the other quarterback situations that didn’t work out in the long run for Indianapolis was the signing of Philip Rivers in 2020. According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Ballard signed Rivers expecting the veteran to lead the team’s offense for multiple years. Although Rivers did take the Colts to the playoffs, he retired after one season with the team, leading the Colts to make more moves for Wentz and, eventually, Ryan in the years to follow.

Scott Milanovich Turned Down Colts’ Play-Calling Duties?

Jim Irsay‘s unusual decision to name Jeff Saturday as his team’s interim head coach has not been well-received around the league. Among Frank Reich‘s holdover staffers, a fair amount of unrest has emerged.

Saturday is going with assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier as his offensive play-caller in Week 10, but Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post reports Frazier was not the first choice. QBs coach Scott Milanovich, a former Jaguars play-caller who helmed the Toronto Argonauts to a Grey Cup as head coach in 2012, turned down the chance to call plays.

Milanovich called plays in Canada and for a short stretch with the Jaguars. He has been on Reich’s staff since last year. While Frazier has been with the Colts since Reich’s 2018 arrival, the 30-year-old does not have play-calling experience and was on the quality control level as recently as 2020. The Colts also have former East Carolina HC and Maryland OC Scottie Montgomery on staff as running backs coach; Montgomery was on the Panthers’ OC radar this offseason.

[RELATED: Reich Aiming For Another HC Job]

Irsay’s decision to hire Saturday has caused tumult among staffers and players, according to La Canfora, who adds Matt Ryan and other veterans were “irate” when informed of the Reich-for-Saturday swap. Some vets have said they do not want to play for the team any longer, though the trade deadline having passed limits players’ options. GM Chris Ballard, whom Irsay said was not in danger of being canned, told players the Saturday decision came “directly from the owner.” Irsay made that plain with his comments this week.

Irsay being behind the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady is not surprising, but La Canfora notes the owner overruled Reich on quarterback selection. Reich did not view Sam Ehlinger as ready to play, and although the since-fired HC did not want to bench the struggling Ryan, he would have gone to Nick Foles before Ehlinger. Reich said this offseason he had wanted to acquire Foles in previous years. Prior to Ehlinger replacing Ryan, he moved past Foles as Indy’s QB2. It does not appear Reich backed that move.

The Colts are 0-2 with the 2021 sixth-round pick starting, and although Ehlinger drew praise from Reich, some around the league believe the Colts are tanking with their Saturday-Ehlinger-Frazier strategy. Irsay vehemently pushed back on that notion (via The Athletic’s Bob Kravitz), but the Colts — who also traded Nyheim Hines‘ through-2024 contract to the Bills at the deadline — will be far less experienced in key spots when they face the Raiders on Sunday.

That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard, that we’re tanking,” Irsay said. “That’s bulls—. We’re in this thing; 9-7-1 get us in, no question about it. … We’re not tanking the season. Whoever says these things, that we’re not playing Matt because [of an effort to tank], that’s all bulls—. That’s not true. … We’re going to do what it takes to win. I don’t know who people think we are, they don’t know us. We don’t tank in Indianapolis.”

Irsay also said, via Kravitz, Ryan could play again this year. Previously, the thought was Reich’s 2023 injury guarantee will keep him sidelined. Ryan has missed time with a shoulder injury, but upon switching to Ehlinger, Reich said the move was not injury-related. The longtime Indianapolis owner said it is inaccurate to suggest he forced the QB switch on Reich, indicating Saturday will have free rein to change quarterbacks. Irsay has, however, taken a hands-on role regarding quarterbacks this year. He forced the trade of Carson Wentz and instructed Ballard to finalize the Ryan deal, so his fingerprints being on the Ehlinger move would not be a stretch.

The Colts won the Andrew Luck sweepstakes 10 years ago, going 2-14 in 2011. But the team losing Peyton Manning for a full season led to that pick, rather than a full-fledged tanking effort. Though, the Colts certainly benefited from losing at the right time. Indianapolis has yet to find a Luck replacement; the team will certainly be linked to first-round passers in 2023.

Reich’s staff also includes DC Gus Bradley, a four-year Jaguars HC who has been on the coordinator level for over a decade, and former Panthers, Broncos and Bears HC John Fox, a senior defensive assistant. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone is viewed as a rising talent in the coaching ranks. The Saturday decision and Irsay’s defense of the choice has drawn criticism from other staffers around the league, Kimberley Martin of ESPN.com tweets.

The Rooney Rule does not apply to interim hires. Rod Graves, the director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, said (via CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, on Twitter) that should change going forward. The NFL’s expanding of the Rooney Rule in recent years certainly points to the possibility it will later apply to interim hires. It is not yet known if the league will discuss that matter for potential 2023 application.

AFC Notes: Ryan, Jets, Bills, Chargers

Matt Ryan has started each of his 239 appearances (including playoffs) in the NFL, but he’ll find himself behind Sam Ehlinger on the depth chart for Sunday’s game against the Commanders. Despite the sudden change of role, Ryan told Joel E. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star that he hasn’t thought about asking the Colts for a trade.

Ryan is currently dealing with a shoulder issue, and while there’s a chance he’ll be active against Washington, the QB admitted that the injury is significant. Either way, the Colts made it clear that their change atop the QB depth chart would have happened regardless of the veteran’s health. Now, Ryan will likely find himself serving as a backup for the rest of the season.

“That part is different,” Ryan said of his new role. “But I’ve also learned in this league, it’s tough to assume anything. The minute you start to make assumptions about how things are going to shake out, you just never know. For me, No. 1, it’s about getting healthy and getting myself into a position where I’m staying ready.”

Ryan also acknowledged that he was disappointed in his performance through the first seven games. While the Colts are a respectable 3-3-1, the offense has been inconsistent, with Ryan completing 68.4 percent of his passes while tossing nine touchdowns vs. nine interceptions.

“Individually and personally disappointed,” Ryan said. “As a player and a competitor, you want to be out there. You want to go. … It’s part of the deal in this league. You’ve got to produce.”

More notes from around the AFC…

  • After asking for a trade and sitting out Week 7, Elijah Moore has rejoined the Jets, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post (on Twitter). The receiver is expected to be active for Week 8. The 2021 second-round pick has been limited to only 16 catches in six games this season, including zero catches on zero targets in New York’s Week 6 win over the Packers. That empty stat line ultimately prompted Moore’s trade request.
  • Speaking of the Jets, the team made headlines when they acquired running back James Robinson from the Jaguars earlier this week. While Robinson saw a reduced role during his last few games in Jacksonville, it wasn’t necessarily because of an impending trade. Jaguars coach Doug Pederson told reporters that the team wasn’t actively shopping the running back, per ESPN’s Michael DiRocco on Twitter. The Jets initiated trade talks after losing star rookie RB Breece Hall for the season. “I have a ton of respect for James,” Pederson said. “He put himself in a position to help our football team, and now he gets a chance to do that with the Jets and wishing him well.”
  • Tre’Davious White has missed the first chunk of the season while recovering from a torn ACL, but Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier told reporters that the cornerback’s return to the lineup doesn’t appear to be “that far away” (via Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic on Twitter). White returned to practice before Week 6, and his three-week window will soon be coming to an end. While it doesn’t sound like he’ll be active on Sunday night, there’s a good chance he’ll be back for Week 9.
  • Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson had surgery yesterday to repair his patellar tendon, per NFL Network’s Bridget Condon on Twitter. The surgery generally takes around eight to nine months to recover from. The offseason acquisition ruptured the tendon on Sunday, ending his 2022 campaign prematurely.

Jim Irsay Led Charge For Colts’ Matt Ryan Benching

Jim Irsay has placed his hands on the Colts’ personnel steering wheel at key junctures this year. Nine months after the owner insisted Carson Wentz be a Colts one-and-done, he led the way to Wentz’s replacement being benched.

Over the past few weeks, Irsay let Chris Ballard and Frank Reich know a change was needed at quarterback, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports, noting Ballard was onboard with benching Matt Ryan for Sam Ehlinger before Reich reached that conclusion (subscription required).

Pointing out that the quarterback position provides an exception to Irsay’s policy of letting Ballard and Reich run the show, Keefer adds a Sunday-night meeting — similar to the Irsay-Ballard-Reich summit shortly after the Colts’ Week 18 meltdown in Jacksonville — led to the call to demote Ryan. Ryan’s sprained shoulder will sideline him in Week 8, but he will soon become a healthy backup for the first time since Boston College’s 2005 season. Ryan’s 12 turnovers — nine interceptions, three lost fumbles — lead the league.

Irsay’s prompting also comes months after he instructed Ballard to finalize the trade for Ryan, whom the Falcons dealt to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick. Indianapolis went more than a week in between the Wentz and Ryan trades, discussing a deal with Jameis Winston during the days between those moves. But once the Falcons’ Deshaun Watson courtship commenced, the Ryan-to-Indy path formed.

The Colts have traded a first-rounder and two thirds to bring in their past two starting QBs, though they recouped considerable value by shipping Wentz to Washington this offseason. Indianapolis will now turn to a former sixth-round pick at the game’s marquee position.

Select scouts communicated to SI.com’s Albert Breer they believe Ryan’s arm is shot, and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points to Ryan’s injury guarantees as the reason the Colts are moving away from him seven games in. The Colts restructured Ryan’s contract this offseason, ballooning his 2023 cap number to $35.2MM. Ryan will see $12MM guaranteed next year, but $7.2MM more would come via injury guarantees if the 37-year-old passer cannot pass a physical on Day 3 of the 2023 league year, Florio adds. Ryan’s $10MM 2023 roster bonus is also guaranteed for injury, leading to the Colts’ effort to bubble-wrap their initial 2022 starter.

The Colts continue to battle uphill in the years after Andrew Luck‘s August 2019 retirement. After acquiring Ryan, they joined the Broncos and Commanders in starting a sixth Week 1 quarterback in six years. Fewer than 10 teams have gone through that much QB1 turnover since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Indianapolis will run that streak to seven next season. Only two post-merger teams — the Chargers from 1987-93 and Browns from 2013-19 — have trotted out different Week 1 starting QBs in seven straight years. Ehlinger, who has yet to throw a regular-season pass, will attempt to make his case to be that starter.

Colts Name Sam Ehlinger Starting QB

The Colts will have a new face under center when they take on the Commanders in Week 8. Head coach Frank Reich announced on Monday that Sam Ehlinger will serve as the team’s starting quarterback in place of Matt Ryan.

The move was first reported by Mike Chappell of Fox59. The fact that Ryan was announced to have a grade 2 shoulder sprain (which, Reich confirmed, will keep him from practicing or playing this week), led to initial speculation that the switch would be temporary. However, as Reich explained, the QB swap is meant to be permanent moving forward.

“Right now the move is for Sam to be the starter for the rest of the season,” Reich said, confirming that the change would have been made even if Ryan had been healthy. The latter was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Falcons; that deal cost the Colts a third-round pick, and represented the latest in a long line of moves aimed at providing the team with its first long-term Andrew Luck replacement.

Even at the age of 37, Indianapolis’ front office viewed Ryan as just that. The longtime Falcons starter is under contract for one more season after this. He is due a 2023 base salary of $21.7MM – more than half of which is guaranteed – and has a scheduled cap hit of $35.2MM. The Colts would see just over $17MM in cap savings by releasing the former league MVP this offseason.

Such a decision would not have seemed possible heading into the campaign, but his struggles have been at the forefront of the team’s underwhelming offense. Ryan leads the league in interceptions (nine), fumbles (11, three of which have been lost) and sacks taken (24). Overall, the team ranks sixth in the league in passing, but 29th in scoring at an average of 16.1 points per game.

The decision also sheds light on the move the Colts made earlier this month, elevating Ehlinger to the backup role. Doing so relegated veteran Nick Foles to being inactive, despite Reich commenting on his multi-year desire to sign the former Eagles Super Bowl winner. With Ryan unavailable in Week 8, at a minimum, Foles will serve as the backup on Sunday.

A 2021 sixth-round pick, Ehlinger has yet to attempt a regular season pass in the NFL. The Texas alum will make his league debut not against the injured Carson Wentz, whom the Colts traded away prior to Ryan’s acquisition, but Taylor Heinicke instead.

“It’s a big step but we think he’s ready,” Reich added of Ehlinger. “This guy’s special… Sam, he’s got that about him. He plays, he practices in a way [that] he’ll be ready.”

Colts Planning To Bump Sam Ehlinger To QB2 Role

Shortly after the Colts signed Nick Foles, Frank Reich said he wanted to bring in the former Super Bowl MVP in previous offseasons. The fit worked out best this year, after the Bears released him following the draft.

Foles has worked as Matt Ryan‘s backup thus far this season, but that will change in Week 6. Indianapolis plans to bump Sam Ehlinger into that role, Fox 59’s Mike Chappell reports. Ehlinger will dress, while Foles will be a gameday inactive.

Suiting up for a game is not new to Ehlinger, a sixth-round pick out of Texas last year. He stood as Carson Wentz‘s backup last season. Wentz made 17 starts during his one-and-done Indianapolis season, but the Colts have consistently praised Ehlinger. His stock continues to rise within the organization, Zak Keefer of The Athletic notes (on Twitter).

While Chappell adds Ehlinger is not viewed as a threat to Ryan, the promotion is certainly interesting given how the 15th-year veteran has fared as a Colt. Ryan’s 11 fumbles are the most through five games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and his 10 turnovers (seven interceptions, three lost fumbles) lead the league. The Colts have also seen teams submerge their immobile starter; Ryan has taken 21 sacks this season. The Colts are averaging a league-low 13.8 points per game.

A consistent presence for Big 12 buffs throughout his college career, Ehlinger worked as the Longhorns’ starter from his 2017 freshman season through 2020. He posted two seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes compared to five INTs and offers far superior mobility compared to Ryan or Foles. Ehlinger totaled 16 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore and amassed 663 rushing yards as a junior. He still lasted until the No. 218 pick last year, carrying a project label upon joining the Colts.

The Colts, who traded a third-round pick for Ryan this year and want him to start for at least two seasons, have run into persistent issues along their offensive line. The once-elite unit has seen uneven play affect Ryan. Indy has already relocated Matt Pryor from left tackle to right tackle and benched Week 1 right guard Danny Pinter. Pryor, who has allowed five sacks this season, did not play well at right tackle last week in Denver. It is possible the Colts make another move at that spot in Week 6.

Ehlinger may be positioned as the backup due to his mobility behind this unusually shaky front, though it would be interesting to see if the Colts would turn to he or Foles if Ryan suffered an injury that required a multigame absence. Ryan has only missed three starts due to injury in his career. Foles is signed through 2023 on a $6.2MM deal.

Falcons Shopped Matt Ryan Before Deshaun Watson Decision; Team Expected To Land Watson

Matt Ryan trade buzz picked up in the days following Deshaun Watson‘s decision to waive his no-trade for the Browns, but the Falcons had begun discussing its 14-year quarterback with teams before Watson committed.

As the Falcons pursued Watson, they shopped Ryan, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports (subscription required). This came as most among the Falcons assumed the embattled Texans quarterback “was theirs.” Watson is from Georgia and spent time as a Falcons ball boy as a child.

This gibes with what came out in March, when a report indicated Watson was speaking with free agents — Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette among them — about joining him in Atlanta. Jadeveon Clowney later said he would probably have signed with the Falcons had Watson chosen to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to Atlanta. The Falcons were also competing with the Panthers and Saints for Watson, but on the night before the trade went down, the Falcons had expected to land the Pro Bowl quarterback. The Browns’ fully guaranteed $230MM contract — a price point that pushed the Falcons and Panthers to stand down — changed everything.

Prior to Watson’s Cleveland choice, Falcons assistant GM Ryan Smith contacted Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds regarding Ryan interest, Keefer adds, and Colts brass then watched every Ryan game from 2020-21 as they determined if he would be a fit. The Colts had agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Commanders on March 9, leaving them without a clear-cut option for a stretch. They had also held discussions with Jameis Winston, with Baker Mayfield showing interest in Indianapolis. The Falcons and Colts agreed to terms on a Ryan trade — which sent a third-round pick to Atlanta for the former MVP — March 21.

Ryan, now 37, did his own homework on the Colts, calling Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to gain intel on, respectively, the organization and Frank Reich‘s offense. Other teams were also interested in Ryan, per Keefer, but the Falcons wanted to send their longtime franchise cornerstone to a destination he preferred.

Despite Watson choosing the Browns as the Colts shopped Ryan, the Falcons stayed the course on a trade by continuing negotiations. On the Colts’ end, Jim Irsay, who had a few negative things to say about Wentz this offseason, instructed GM Chris Ballard to complete the trade. Shortly after the Falcons sent Ryan to the Colts, they signed ex-Arthur Smith Titans charge Marcus Mariota. While third-round pick Desmond Ridder should be expected to make starts for the rebuilding team this season, Mariota will begin the campaign as Atlanta’s starter.

The Colts, whose issues with Wentz began during the 2021 offseason, have been pleased with Ryan thus far. They are eyeing at least a two-year partnership. This would stop a revolving QB door for the Colts, who are about to the join the Broncos and Commanders in starting a different Week 1 QB in each of the past six seasons. Ryan’s contract, which handed the Falcons an NFL-record $40MM dead-money charge, has since been restructured. It checks in with $18.7MM (2022) and $35.2MM (’23) cap numbers.