The Indianapolis Colts have their next quarterback, and the patience of general manager Chris Ballard appears to have paid off.
The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to trade 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan to the Colts for a third-round pick. The Pat McAfee Show broke the deal first.
NFL Insiders Ian Rapoport, Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero confirmed the deal and compensation. Rapoport also reported that through the trade, Ryan will receive more guaranteed money.
This trade ends Ryan’s 14-year tenure with the Falcons, who attempted and failed to acquire Deshaun Watson in the middle of March.
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Colts Acquire Matt Ryan for Third-Round Pick
Indianapolis didn’t make a ton of noise during the first week of free agency. Ballard is known as one of the most patient general managers in the league. That patience paid off following the Watson trade.
Jeff Schultz of The Athletic theorized that the Falcons may have alienated their starting quarterback while attempting to acquire Watson. Also, Ryan was due his $7.5 million roster bonus at 4 pm ET on March 21.
If Ryan grew frustrated about the Falcons trying to replace him, a trade may have become inevitable. The fact his roster bonus was due gave Atlanta urgency to make a deal happen on March 21.
The end result for the Colts is a starting quarterback for the price of a late Day 2 draft pick.
Ryan posted 3,968 passing yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions during the 2021 season. Although the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule, Ryan failed to throw for 4,000 yards in a season for the first time since 2010.
But the Falcons didn’t offer much support for Ryan offensively. Despite a lot of draft capital and free agent signings dedicated upfront, Atlanta hasn’t featured a competent offensive line in years. The Falcons also traded top receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans last June and then his replacement, Calvin Ridley, left the team on Oct. 31 to work on his mental health.
Ryan is not the same quarterback who won MVP six years ago, but he doesn’t have to be with Jonathan Taylor in the backfield. The Falcons finished 31st in rushing last season.
Another Short-Term Solution at Quarterback for Colts
The biggest negative of the trade, and part of why the Colts only needed to give up a third-round pick for new quarterback, is Ryan’s age. He will turn 37 in May.
In many ways, adding Ryan mirrors the Colts signing Rivers to a 1-year deal two years ago. At that time, Rivers was 38.
Rivers led the Colts to an 11-5 record and playoff berth in 2020. If the Colts can address their offensive line departures from this offseason and the team’s hole at wide receiver behind Michael Pittman, Ryan will have the necessary pieces to do what Rivers did in 2020.
For how long is the question.
Rivers retired after one season with the Colts. Ryan, a year younger than what Rivers was when he joined the Colts, has two years remaining on his contract.
It’s possible, perhaps even likely, the Colts will be looking for another quarterback within two years.
But that’s a worry for another day. Rivers posted 4,169 passing yards and 24 touchdowns with 11 interceptions during his lone season in Indianapolis. The Colts finished the 2020 season 11th in passing yards.
Ryan has that same potential, and if Taylor again leads the NFL in rushing again, Ryan may not even need to record a 4,000 passing season for the Colts to win the AFC South.