The Athletic Proposes a Matt Ryan trade to the Browns

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The NFL could look a lot different in 2022. Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Carson Wentz are all guys who could be on other teams in 2022. The Athletic explored a few of these possibilities in their bold predictions article:

Personally, I think the idea of Ryan to the Browns would benefit both teams. Yes, Atlanta would have to eat a record-setting cap hit, but Ryan would get a chance to compete on a competent team, and the Falcons could hit the reset button. Regardless, there are some great ideas in this piece, and you should check out all ten predictions. Here’s what Sheil Kapadia had to say about the Falcons and Browns:

Let’s be clear here: The most likely scenario is that the Falcons don’t trade Ryan. Having said that, I think sometimes we get confused about what “dead money” means when it comes to NFL contracts. Simply put, it’s money that gets charged to a team’s salary cap for a player who’s no longer on the roster. It is bad business to waste cap space on players who are not playing. You don’t need an economics degree to understand that.

But the way teams view dead money now is different than it was five or 10 years ago. Take the Eagles, for example. They traded Wentz last year and incurred the largest dead cap hit in NFL history: $33.8 million. Why? Because Wentz wanted to move on, the Eagles decided they were fine moving on, and they were receiving significant draft capital in return.

Which brings us to Ryan. According to OverTheCap.com, he would carry a dead cap hit of $40.5 million if the Falcons traded him. That would overtake the Wentz hit as the biggest in NFL history. But there’s always going to be a price that makes incurring a hit like that worth it — specifically if you don’t have much use for the player. If a team offered the Falcons their next three drafts for Ryan, would Atlanta take the dead cap hit and do that deal? Of course! That’s an extreme example, but hopefully you get the point.

So what’s the theoretical deal that would at least make the Falcons not hang up the phone? If a team offered the same deal that the Eagles took for Wentz — a conditional second that could turn into a first, plus a third — would that be enough?

Ryan was up and down last year and finished the season 24th in EPA per play. The Falcons’ offense finished 28th in DVOA. They had one of the worst pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, traded Julio Jones before the season and got Calvin Ridley for just five games. The Falcons have one of the worst cap situations in the league. They are going to need to build methodically through the draft. Trading Ryan would free up roughly $8 million in cap space for 2022. They could use that money to sign a low-cost bridge option at quarterback if they need to and then explore the draft for a longer-term option.

The Browns are in a tough spot. They have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and one of the best overall rosters. Given how last season played out, coming back and just handing the keys to Baker Mayfield feels like it would be a mistake. If a player like Wilson actually became available, the Browns should be at the front of the line to land him. That would elevate them to legit contender.

And it’s possible that they’d view someone like Cousins or Derek Carr as a significant upgrade.

Ryan turns 37 in May. The Browns would have to convince themselves that he’s still capable of offering a couple years of high-level play if surrounded by a better supporting cast. Ryan’s contract is not bad for a team that wants to acquire him. It’s roughly $25.9 million per year for the next two seasons with no money guaranteed.

If the conditions were similar to the ones the Eagles got in the Wentz trade (~75% of snaps or the Browns make the playoffs), that should be an easy first-round pick for the Falcons. Throughout his career, Ryan has been an iron man, and I think he’s a great fit for Stefanski’s offense. We’ll have to see going forward, but this is a deal I think both sides should be interested in.

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