The Atlanta Falcons, who started last season 0-5, are set to be a different team this year with new head coach Arthur Smith now in charge. But while who will be calling the shots has drastically changed, some things have not — like Matt Ryan’s starting job at quarterback.
The Falcons’ longtime signal-caller spoke to the media on Tuesday and addressed his future in Atlanta and Julio Jones trade rumors.
Several reports have said that the Falcons are taking calls and are open to trading Jones, and Ryan is well aware that he can’t stop Atlanta from making a business transaction if that’s what is best for the team.
“I love Julio, I’ve been so lucky to play with him for the past decade and he’s an unbelievable player,” Ryan told local reporters. “I don’t get involved from this side of it. From a teammate, from a player standpoint, he’s my teammate. He’s my guy. You let the other side shake out how it is.”
If the Falcons find a trade partner, then a deal likely won’t go down until next month. Trading Jones post-June 1 could save the team $15 million in salary-cap space, but if they were to let him go before that date, then the club would take a $23 million cap hit.
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Matt Ryan’s Notable Success With Julio Jones
Ryan was asked hypothetically what the Falcons offense might look like without Jones and was quick to credit much of his success to the seven-time Pro Bowler. However, he made it clear he isn’t sure what the team’s offense without him would be like.
“He’s been such a great teammate, he’s a hell of a player. I love him. He’s probably impacted my career more significantly than any other player. I’m really fortunate to be around him for as long as I have,” Ryan said during the May 18 press conference.
With Jones as his top target, Ryan has a passer rating of 97.8 with 39,204 yards, 242 touchdowns and 99 interceptions in 134 games, according to Stat Muse. Without Jet Jones, Ryan’s numbers drop to a rating of 88.6 with 6,502 yards, 39 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 25 games.
In the NFL draft last month, the Falcons didn’t turn to a quarterback with their first-round pick. Instead, they turned to TE Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall. Pitts is projected to be Ryan’s new weapon and possibly Jones’ replacement.
Ryan Believes He Has Plenty of Juice Left in Him
Ryan revealed that he had no idea what the Falcons would do with the No. 4 pick, but their decision to skip out on taking his replacement in the first round hasn’t changed his mindset that he still needs to prove he’s capable of being QB1.
“In one respect you understand that if you play well for long enough, these are the conversations that are going to come up,” Ryan said. “I understand that I’m not going to play forever, but I also have the mindset that I’m still playing really well and have a lot of good football in front of me.”
Ryan turned 36 this week and knows he isn’t getting any younger but has continued to play well coming off a 2020 season completing 65% of his passes for 4,581 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. And now he believes he is entering a season more motivated than he has ever been.
“You realize how hard it is at this age,” Ryan said. “You appreciate the success probably more now. I’ve never really been motivated — you want to win, but I really hated losing more than I loved winning. It would eat at you more, and I think that only intensifies the older you get because you realize your opportunities are limited.”