With the news of Matt Ryan being traded to the Indianapolis Colts, the current outlook of the AFC has seemingly never been stronger. The Falcons traded Ryan to the Colts in exchange for a 2022 3rd round pick, 82nd overall.
Atlanta will be left with a $40.52M dead cap hit for Ryan with the Colts taking on ~$53M over the next 2 seasons; yet Ryan’s only guaranteed money are the $7.5M roster bonuses in the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The $26.5M APY on Ryan’s current contract would be 13th in the NFL assuming the Colts do not give him an extension (i.e. Browns with Watson). Despite all this, the Colts miraculously still save ~$9M in cap savings with the Ryan trade.
This trade was imminent, especially with the news of the Falcons being suitors for Watson and with Ryan and the Falcons pushing back his $7.5M roster bonus to today by 4pm EST. It is really hard to ‘put the toothpaste back in the tube’ in this situation as there could rightfully be some displeasure on Ryan’s part as he has been with the franchise since 2008.
After this situation, the Falcons and Ryan both had to make a move on from one another, and we see this as a win-win for the Colts and the Falcons.
Win for the Falcons
For the Falcons, the move places them with the biggest dead cap hit in NFL history at $40.25M ($7M more than the next closest). But with significant increases to the salary cap now and moving forward, the dead cap changes are easier to absorb than they have been in previous years. Let’s not mistake it, the Falcons $62M in dead cap in 2022 is poor management. The dead money that the Falcons will take on in 2022 from the Ryan contract will be larger than 28 of the 32 NFL teams (per Jason Fitzgerald).
Even more amazingly, per Fitzgerald, only 21 out of the 319 NFL team seasons since 2013 have had a total year dead cap hit greater than $40.52M. It seems as though, per reports, that they will bring in former Titans QB Marcus Mariota, who has familiarity with Falcons HC Arthur Smith from their days in Tennessee together. This would be a short term move in which the Falcons could look to add a QB in the 2022 or 2023 Draft.
“As we know, the 2022 Draft is not rich with QB talent,” said former NFL General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. “But the 2023 Draft is one that could feature Bryce Young and CJ Stroud.”
After the Ryan trade, it is realistic to think that the Falcons could hit rock bottom in 2022 and find themselves in a position to draft one of the top QBs come next season.
Win for the Colts
The Colts are in “win now” mode with their current roster and the current state of the AFC South. They will compete with the Titans for first place in the division and could find themselves in the hunt for a Wild Card playoff spot, which will be quite contentious.
This move for Indianapolis is quite reminiscent of the moves made by them when they brought in Phillip Rivers for the last year of his career.
“Just think of what Rivers did with the Colts,” said former Cleveland Browns Head Coach Chris Palmer. “I feel Ryan will be just as productive if not more, with the run game they have.”
In that season they made the Wild Card round and lost to the Buffalo Bills in the opening weekend.
With Ryan at QB for 2022, the Colts will now have had 5 different starting QBs over a 5 year period (Luck, Brissett, Rivers, Wentz and Ryan).
Since the start of the 2016 season, Matt Ryan leads the NFL in passing yards (26,978) and he’s 5th in touchdown passes (165), per @EpKap.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 21, 2022
“Matt Ryan is a great fit in Indianapolis,” said Tannenbaum. “They have a strong running game and the play action attack with Jonathan Taylor will work well in this offense.
The Colts moved on from Carson Wentz, a second round pick and a 7th round pick for a 2022 2nd, 3rd and 2023 3rd (that can escalate to a 2nd depending on Wentz’s snap %), and then traded a 3rd for Ryan. Wrapping that up, the Colts went from Wentz to Ryan, and added a 3rd round pick. Sometimes patience in roster building can lead to rewards, which is shown by the Colts move here.