How does adjusting Matt Ryan’s contract affect the Falcons’ plan to draft successor?

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The Falcons made a not so surprising move to restructure Matt Ryan‘s contract last week, which converted $7.5 million of his base salary and a $7.5 million roster bonus that was initially due next week into a signing bonus to spread it out over more years. His new cap hit for 2022 is $36.662 million, with a base salary of $8.75 million. The Falcons added three voidable years from 2024 to 2026, totaling $9 million.

Steve Wyche reported a few weeks ago that adjusting Ryan’s contract would be a last resort to create cap space for the Falcons. When in fact, it was one of the very first moves this offseason. So, how does this affect the team’s succession plan for Ryan?

Back in February, Falcons owner Arthur Blank told members of the media that the plan to find Ryan’s eventual successor has been ongoing, even before Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot were hired.

“Let’s make this clear. At some point, we do need to understand that Father Time does get us all and at some point we have to make a clear succession plan for the next quarterback,” Blank said. “Teams in the league that have done that successfully really are in a good position. The ones that haven’t are the ones that struggle for a number of years as they flip in and out of quarterbacks that are not really the ultimate answer.”

At the NFL combine, Smith and Fontenot said they expected Ryan to be their starting quarterback in 2022 but did leave the possibility of a trade open. It seems things really haven’t changed, even with the contract restructured.¬†They very well could draft his successor in 2022 because moving on from Ryan in 2023 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Ryan’s $27.6 million dead cap figure if the Falcons moved off him in 2023 is much more palatable than the $40 million in dead money they would’ve incurred this offseason. Trading him next offseason would save the Falcons $19 million against the 2023 salary cap.

In short, if the Falcons were planning on taking Ryan’s successor in the 2022 NFL draft, it is still in the cards. The contract adjustment created cap space for 2022, but without the void years, it would’ve been that much harder to move off Ryan following the 2022 season. Those void years spread out the dead cap, which can be worked into an extension if the Falcons feel Ryan’s play warrants keeping him past the 2023 season.

Regardless, the Falcons remain flexible when it comes to Ryan’s contract. His level of play will determine if he’s under center in 2023 and beyond. Either way the Falcons go in April’s draft, we will be doing this same song and dance next offseason.

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