NFL executives believe Falcons ‘screwed up’ not trading Matt Ryan last year

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The latest Matt Ryan restructure left the Falcons with $40.5 million in dead money, which adds to the $15.5 million in dead money from Julio Jones‘ contract, $4.7 million from Dante Fowler and $1.2 million from Tyeler Davison — a total of $61.9 million in dead money, nearly 30% of the team’s total salary cap in 2022.

However, this was always going to be the outcome for the Falcons. The roster is pathetic, and with Ryan’s restructured contract, everyone knew this was inevitable. Arthur Blank’s desire to stay relevant and continue to compete was delusional; he just didn’t want to admit a rebuild was the only option until the last possible moment.

“You can think of it as kind of a credit card,” Blank said. “At some point, you have to pay the bank. At some point, there is a day of reckoning. All the extensions (of Ryan’s contract) we did were a team decision. It was driven by the coach and general manager. I obviously was aware of it, (but) I don’t get involved in those levels of detail as far as restructuring.”

“It does take other players to win. It’s not like golf,” Blank said. “You have to have a team around you. You’ve got to have an offensive line to keep you standing vertical as opposed to horizontal. You got to have receivers; you got to have a running back, you got to have a defense that can stay on and compete.”

The Falcons should’ve begun the rebuild a year ago when Ryan’s trade value was highest and with a much better crop of signal callers in the draft to effectively replace him. It is widely accepted Atlanta royally screwed themselves by delaying this certainty. Mike Sando of The Athletic interviewed multiple league executives, and their opinions on the matter align perfectly with those previous sentiments.

“I think they just gave Matt Ryan away to wherever he wanted to go,” one exec said. “One year ago, they get at least a one for him. That’s why Detroit moved so quickly trading (Matthew) Stafford, to get ahead of all the other quarterbacks dominoes that could have fallen. Atlanta waited, which is why Matt Ryan went for a three.”

“Clearly they screwed up by not dealing Matt last year,” another exec said. “The interesting thing for Atlanta is, two of the most quarterback-needy teams are in your division, so you are probably not sending him there. You were probably a little bit more hamstrung than other teams.”

“The one thing I will give credit for Atlanta, they recognize their seven wins were a mirage,” an exec said. “They realized that and were able to adjust. They knew they couldn’t just keep pushing this. You give them credit because it is hard to realize it when you win some games.”

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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