And according to one NFL insider and CBS Sports’reporter, Ryan Wilson, that’s not such a bad thing. Wilson joined the 31st episode of Matt Tabeek’s Bird Noises podcast where Tabeek gave him some rapid-fire questions.
When “Matt Ryan?” was thrown out there, Wilson was quick to say, “He’s got something left in the tank and I know a lot of mock drafts have the Falcons taking a second quarterback, but I think he’s got a few more years left to prove that he’s still one the best quarterbacks in the league.”
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Why It Makes Sense for Atlanta to Keep Matt Ryan at Start
At 35-years-old, Ryan is entering his 14th season in the NFL as Atlanta’s starting quarterback. Just this past season, Ryan continued to play at a high-level while throwing for 4,581 yards and 26 touchdowns.
But aside from the money and contract aspect, the Falcons keeping Ryan as their starter makes sense because of their new head coach in former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith.
Smith will be running a similar offense to when 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons’ OC in 2016. That season, Ryan completed 69.9% of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He was named MVP and led the Falcons to a Super Bowl (no need to recap).
Smith is coming off two notable seasons as the Titans offensive coordinator where he was credited for turning quarterback Ryan Tannehill around.
With Smith as the OC, Tannehill won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award and made the Pro Bowl in 2019. Tannehill’s success continued this past season as he posted a passer rating of 106.5 while leading the Titans to an 11-5 finish and playoff appearance.
Smith plans to bring the same approach he took in Tennessee to Atlanta.
“We’re going to play to Matt’s strengths just like we tried to play to Ryan’s strengths”, Smith said during his introductory press conference.
Of course, he doesn’t have a Derrick Henry to work with, but it’s notable that Henry wasn’t the same guy before Smith took over so whoever takes the backfield job will have a great coach. Smith is also aware of the talent he will have to work with around Ryan.
“It’s more than Matt and Julio (Jones),” Smith said. “There’s a lot of talented players on this roster, whether you’re talking about Chris Lindstrom, Grady Jarrett. … The roster today is gonna look different to September and as you get to Week 17. It’s a constant evolution. There’s a lot of talent here that we’ll want to build off of.”
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The Falcons Restructured Matt Ryan’s Contract Again
The biggest move the Falcons did to get under the salary cap was redoing Ryan’s contract which saved them $14 million. The star veteran was set to make $23 million this year in base salary, however, he will take $2 million in 2021 with the remaining $21 million spread out over the next three years in guaranteed money.
This wasn’t the first time Atlanta had to restructure Ryan’s deal. They did it last season as well, saving the team just $7 million by converting $8 million into bonus money.
This restructure now puts Ryan’s new cap hit at $50 million for 2022, according to the NFL insider Field Yates, which means he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.