The Falcons are entering unknown territory for the first time in more than a decade. The team traded longtime signal caller Matt Ryan, who provided stability for a franchise that was going through turmoil following the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino fallouts.
Ryan was the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and went on to win an MVP along with a bevy of playoff appearances. The Falcons were finally in a stable state led by the Boston College product for 14 seasons; however, by the end of his tenure, the Falcons were a terrible roster propped up by a savvy veteran quarterback.
Atlanta ended up trading away one of the greatest players in franchise history to the Colts, which resulted in the single-highest dead cap figure in league history. The Falcons just weren’t in a position to give Ryan the supporting cast needed to get back to the postseason, and ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson believes they did the right thing.
“It’s not a mistake at all. (The Falcons) did a wonderful thing by allowing Matt Ryan to leave and go to a team that can compete for a championship,” Johnson said. “He deserved better, and they knew that. That’s why they’re giving him better. The Atlanta Falcons aren’t ready to compete right now, and (Ryan) doesn’t have time. He can’t sit around and wait three or four years. Time’s running out on Matty Ice.”
Ryan will have an excellent chance at taking an Indy roster that has been a quarterback away from seriously competing since Andrew Luck to the promise land. He’s actually even been mentioned as an MVP candidate, which just goes to show how talented he’s been in Atlanta — just needed an adequate roster around him.
Nobody is confusing the Falcons with a perennial Super Bowl contender with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at the helm. The roster is in need of starting caliber talent along with depth pieces. Keyshawn Johnson is correct in that the Falcons did the right thing by trading Matt Ryan. Atlanta is amid a rebuild and made the right decision to move off Ryan, but it may have come a year late.
Ryan threw for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his final season with the Falcons, but his supporting cast certainly hamstrung him and the offense. I don’t necessarily believe he will fall off a cliff, but Ryan’s arm has lost a step. Credit to Terry Fontenot for finally pulling the trigger on the trade because Atlanta is in the midst of a rebuild. With an aging and expensive quarterback, that’s a formula for mediocracy.
However, I’d argue that Fontenot was a year too late on shipping Ryan off. A year ago, it is widely believed the Falcons would’ve received at least one first-rounder for Ryan. Still, the Falcons could end up winning this trade if Ryan’s performance declines and the Colts disappoint in 2022. Much like Julio Jones, Fontenot was forced to trade Ryan but could come out on top.
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