What restructuring Matt Ryan’s contract means for the future of the Falcons


The new league year starts tomorrow at noon, and the Falcons are officially under the $182.5 million salary cap thanks, in part, to Terry Fontenot restructuring nearly the maximum amount of base salary that he could of Matt Ryan‘s contract. That means that Ryan has an additional $7 million per year in prorated bonus, making him very difficult to trade or cut throughout the remainder of his contract without the organization taking on a massive amount of dead cap. This all points towards the Falcons being tied to Matt Ryan through at least 2022 and may eliminate Fontenot selecting a quarterback in this year’s draft.

The former Boston College Eagle had the highest cap hit in the NFL, coming in at over $40 million. Fontenot restructured virtually all of Ryan’s $21.925 million base salary, dropping his cap hit down to $26.295 million, getting the Falcons below the $182.5 million cap. However, it creates the potential for a lot of future dead money if Ryan doesn’t perform well in 2021 — over $40 million in 2022 and over $15 million in 2023.

Matty Ice and Julio Jones were always the #1 and #2 candidates for a restructure, but it meant committing to the pair for the remainder of their contracts. The former is already a done deal and a much easier pill to swallow. Receivers age much faster than quarterbacks do, and with a loaded receiver class, replacing Julio might be easier than Ryan.

I have no issues with this move at all; in fact, I support it wholeheartedly. Dirk Koetter significantly hindered this supposed juggernaut of an offense last year. Green Bay is a perfect example of what a creative offense can do for an aging veteran quarterback. Many said a few years ago that Aaron Rodgers had completely fallen off a cliff in Mike McCarthy’s final seasons as coach of the Packers. Now, in two seasons with Matt LaFleur, Rodgers has been to the Conference Championship twice, winning an MVP in 2020.

Asking Matty Ice to carry the team is an egregious task; he’s just not capable of it. He needs help. Arthur Smith is that help. LaFleur thought so highly of Smith that he attempted to bring him to Green Bay with him, but Tennessee blocked the move. Smith is one of the brightest young offensive minds in football and relies on a bevy of running schemes to keep defenses off-balance before attacking them vertically with play-action. Ryan won an MVP the last time he played in an offense predicated on running the ball first. Koetter’s offenses seemed to have no flow; one play didn’t affect another. He never had a plan past the first set of scripted plays and went off instinct.

Those days are long gone, and Matt Ryan’s time in Atlanta has been officially extended. A quarterback with the fourth overall pick is still entirely possible, but the odds have shrunk after this restructure. Falcons fans should be excited about this because Fontenot will attack this draft and grab the best player he can regardless of position. “With the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select…” Penei Sewell or Kyle Pitts are my two favorites; the latter makes moving off Julio that much easier.

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