Opinion: The Falcons aren’t going to draft a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft

Ryan, Oct_11_2020

The Falcons were heavily speculated to take a quarterback at some point in the 2021 NFL draft, with most predictions slotting one to be taken fourth overall. Terry Fontenot elected to go with Kyle Pitts, the best non-quarterback prospect on the board. At that point, it was clear the Falcons weren’t going to take a quarterback in the early rounds, but when the middle-to-late rounds came and went, the Falcons only came away with an undrafted quarterback — Feleipe Franks.

Taking a quarterback high in the draft in the same offseason as Matt Ryan‘s massive contract restructure doesn’t make sense because it puts the team on two different timelines. Leading into the 2021 NFL offseason, the Falcons restructured Ryan’s contract for a fourth time in three years. This time, they converted $21 million in base salary to a signing bonus.

Getting rid of Ryan in the coming seasons will be difficult because of that restructure; in fact, Ryan will count only $26.9 million against the cap in 2021, but that figure jumps to a mind-boggling $48.7 million in 2022. In his final year of the contract, Ryan’s salary cap number will drop to $43.6 million in 2023.

The Falcons are clearly financially committed to Ryan as a cut or trade would result in a massive dead cap hit for the team, even if the transaction occurs after June 1st. Taking Justin Fields with the fourth overall pick would’ve forced the Falcons to be in an even worse standing with the league’s salary cap if they were to get rid of Ryan, which is when Fields or any rookie quarterback would be the cheapest — during their rookie contract.

It didn’t make sense as the Falcons made moves to compete right away, not rebuild, even if Julio Jones was traded, which I believe to be completely forced by Jones and his camp and obliged by Fontenot and the front office.

It didn’t make sense this year, nor does it make sense next year. Sports Illustrated mocked the Falcons drafting Carson Strong, and Bleacher Report mocked them taking Matt Corral in next year’s NFL draft. There will be many more mock drafts that have the Falcons selecting Matt Ryan’s heir apparent in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL draft but believe me when I say this — there is no way Terry Fontenot takes a quarterback.

The timeline just doesn’t line up, and there are more ways than one to find a franchise quarterback; just ask Arthur Smith and Ryan Tannehill, who was once considered a bust and now is ranked ahead of Ryan in many positional rankings.

I think there is a better chance the Falcons extend Ryan to lessen his cap hit for the next two years to maintain competitiveness. Even if they don’t extend him, there’s no chance Fontenot selects a quarterback in the early rounds of next year’s draft.


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