Matt Ryan is on his way to a new NFL home as the Indianapolis Colts ready to roll out the red carpet for his arrival. The Atlanta Falcons threw the weight of the entire city behind their pitch to acquire former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, before seeing their efforts fail spectacularly after the former Pro Bowler circled back and accepted a historic deal from the Cleveland Browns, but questions then remained on what would happen with the fractured relationship between the Falcons and Ryan.
Those questions have now been answered by the Falcons, who have struck a deal with the Colts to send the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback to Indy as the 2022 replacement for Carson Wentz in exchange for a 2022 third-round pick, CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora has confirmed.
The two sides have reportedly been in talks with the Colts ever since hearing news of Watson’s decision, if not a bit before, but there was much to hash out in the negotiations. After pushing back Ryan’s guaranteed roster bonus of $7.5 million — which was three days ago but postponed to Monday as the Falcons awaited Watson’s decision to allow for a possible trade of Ryan — they had until 4 p.m. ET to either ship Ryan out of Atlanta or pay him what’s due.
Additionally, from an overall standpoint, Ryan is owed a total of $23.75 million in cash next season and, if the contract remains as-is, the Falcons will be forced to eat a gargantuan sum of $40.5 million in dead money if this trade is made with no changes to the current deal. It remains to be seen if the Colts have agreed to take on any of that hit, but more details on the specifics of the trade will provide clarity in that regard.
That will stand as the single largest dead cap hit in NFL history by nearly $7 million, per ESPN.
Ryan leaves the Falcons after spending 14 seasons with the team, joining them as the league’s third overall pick in 2008, racking up 59,735 passing yards and 367 touchdowns to 170 interceptions. He’d eventually lead the team to the Super Bowl, but the infamous 28-3 collapse suffered at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots remains the biggest stain on his otherwise stout QB resume.
Making things a bit more complex in this trade was the fact the Colts weren’t the only suitors for Ryan, with La Canfora also noting the Seattle Seahawks were working to win the race for the former NFL MVP. The Seahawks are hot off of their own NFL blockbuster, namely the trade of Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a package that included quarterback Drew Lock, and it would be interesting to see if Lock is sent to the Falcons, originally penciled in publicly as QB1 for next season but, in actuality, becoming yet another potential asset to include in a subsequent trade.
There’s also another wrinkle to all of this, and that’s Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield, who released a not-so-veiled goodbye letter ahead of the trade for Watson, initially demanded a trade when Watson told the Browns they were out of the sweepstakes, but Cleveland handed him a firm “no” before later landing Watson and telling Mayfield he was free to find a trade partner. Rumor has it Mayfield was eyeing the Colts as his top landing spot, but having landed Ryan, will it now push Mayfield to Atlanta … or Seattle … and, if it’s the latter, would Lock then find his way to the former??
But wait, there’s more.
The Falcons also reportedly have interest in pursuing former second overall pick Marcus Mariota, per NFL Network, in what could reunite the free agent QB with head coach Arthur Smith, the two having spent time together with the Tennessee Titans. Such a move would allow Smith to at least keep the Falcons competitive in real-time while keeping an eye on finding the true successor to Ryan, while the Colts might soon find themselves contemplating a free agency move that might reunite Ryan with his former offensive compatriot and fellow Atlanta legend Julio Jones, who was released by the Titans this offseason; in what’s all becoming an NFL lesson in six degrees of separation.
In what’s been a whirlwind first few days of 2022 NFL free agency, the latest falling domino — i.e., Ryan — is now set to push the remaining ones over as well.