Mar 21, 2022
Michael RothsteinESPN Staff Writer
- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
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ATLANTA -- After 14 seasons in which he became the best quarterback in franchise history, Matt Ryan is moving on from the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta traded Ryan on Monday to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2022 third-round draft pick, the team announced.
The Falcons moved quickly to add Ryan's possible successor, agreeing to a two-year contract with quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is familiar with coach Arthur Smith's offensive scheme from their time together with the Tennessee Titans. Mariota's deal is worth two-year, $18.75 million, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Smith and Mariota worked together in multiple capacities in the five years they were together with the Titans, including Mariota's six games as a starter during the 2019 season. That was Smith's first year as the Titans' offensive coordinator.
The Colts were desperate for a quarterback after they traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders for third-round picks in 2022 and 2023. Ryan will be the Colts' seventh different Week 1 starter in as many years and the fifth different starting quarterback in coach Frank Reich's tenure.
The Colts and Ryan are restructuring his contract, with a source telling ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that the two years and $53.9 million remaining on his deal are now guaranteed in some form, largely in full, which also could provide Indianapolis with some cap relief.
The third-round pick the Colts are sending the Falcons for Ryan is their original third-rounder, No. 82 overall, not one of the picks they got from Washington for Wentz, a source told ESPN's Dan Graziano.
"We're thrilled we had a chance to acquire a proven veteran in Matt Ryan who brings tremendous experience to our team," Colts general manager Chris Ballard said in a statement. "Matt's leadership and skillset will complement our roster's growth and success. He's long been a great ambassador for the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons, and we're excited he can continue his accomplished career in Indianapolis."
Reich added in a statement that he has "long admired Matt for his steady, methodical approach to the game."
The Colts have been looking for a long-term answer since Andrew Luck retired in August 2019. Ryan will be the second quarterback at the tail end of his career the Colts have acquired in the past three seasons. Veteran Philip Rivers retired at the end of the 2020 season after just one season in Indianapolis. Ryan is signed through the 2023 season.
The Colts' odds to win the Super Bowl improved slightly after the trade, with Caesars Sportsbook moving Indianapolis from 30-1 to 25-1.
Conversations about Ryan's departure picked up at the start of the new league year, when the Falcons became part of a group of teams inquiring about trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Higher-ups throughout Atlanta's organization met with Watson, who is from Gainesville, Georgia, and tried to lure him to the Falcons despite 22 open lawsuits filed by women accusing the quarterback of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
As part of that pursuit, the Falcons and Ryan pushed back a $7.5 million roster bonus to Monday to both let the Watson courtship play out and allow Ryan to seek out trade partners. Watson ended up waiving his no-trade clause to go to the Cleveland Browns, but it also put the Falcons in a position where they had to publicly seek out a succession plan for Ryan.
The trade will leave a dead-money charge of $40.525 million on the Falcons' salary cap this season. It's the largest known dead-money charge for any player all time, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Atlanta now has more than $62 million in dead money for the 2022 season since it also has $15.5 million on the books for last year's Julio Jones trade and more than $4 million for releasing Dante Fowler Jr. earlier this year, along with a couple of other moves.
Weeks earlier, during Super Bowl week, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team had contemplated a succession plan for Ryan the past couple of seasons. Pursuing Watson clearly became one succession option. Now the Falcons will have to push that plan further.
"Matt Ryan has been the epitome of a franchise quarterback during his time here in Atlanta. He has represented this organization with great class, professionalism and leadership, both on and off the field, over the past 14 years," Blank said in a statement. "It is difficult to overstate what he has meant to me personally, our organization, his teammates and our fans.
"From his first day in the building, Matt has given his all in the pursuit of winning a championship for Atlanta. His arrival in 2008 instantly made us a contender in the NFC and he's been our quarterback through the most successful era in Falcons history. Matt led us to the playoffs six times, including two NFC Championship games, and the first Super Bowl appearance under my stewardship of the franchise. He holds every significant passing record in club history, is an All-Pro, an NFL MVP and is without question one of the greatest players in Falcons history. He will one day be added to our Ring of Honor, and it is my belief that a bust in Canton will follow in short order.
"This business is not without its difficult decisions, and while this is one of the most difficult decisions we have faced as a club, we feel it is in the best long-term interests of both the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan."
Once the season was over, Smith continually praised Ryan but stopped short of committing to him to being the team's quarterback in 2022 -- continuously saying he didn't want to back himself into a corner despite how much he respects the veteran leader.
"I've got so much respect for Matt Ryan and what he's meant to this franchise and to me personally in our one year together. Matt was the ultimate professional and teammate every day. I'm thankful for our time together and wish he and his family the best as they transition to the next chapter of his professional journey," Smith said in a statement.
Ryan, meanwhile, made it clear in January that he hoped to stay with the club for his 15th season -- something he'd said each time he'd been asked about it for months. He said he believed in Smith, in what the Falcons were building and in what they did with the roster they had.
Ryan, who turns 37 in May, had been a stalwart for the Falcons since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2008 by the club. The Falcons had hoped he would be the next franchise quarterback following Michael Vick, whom the team moved on from after a dogfighting scandal that sent him to prison.
Almost immediately, Ryan proved to be a good selection. His first pass was a touchdown -- 62 yards to Michael Jenkins -- and he ended up as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound player had been one of the team's leaders since, a durable player at the most important position in sports.
In 14 years in Atlanta, he missed only three games -- two in 2009 and one in 2019. He threw for at least 4,000 yards every season from 2011 until last season, when he threw for 3,968 yards. He has had at least 20 touchdown passes every year since his rookie season in 2008, when he had 16.
Ryan made the Pro Bowl four times with the Falcons, but no season was more impressive than in 2016, when Ryan completed 69.9% of his passes for a career-high 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
He was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player that season and led Atlanta to Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots. That Super Bowl will be one of his lasting legacies with the Falcons. Atlanta held a 28-3 lead over the Patriots in the third quarter but ended up losing 34-28 in overtime.
Ryan and the team made the playoffs the next year, in 2017, but the Falcons have not had a winning record at any point since.
In those four seasons, Ryan has been sacked 40 or more times in each season. He rarely has had competent defenses around him over the past four seasons and last season played with a roster that saw the trade of Jones, WR Calvin Ridley missing three-quarters of the season so he could focus on his mental health and WR Russell Gage injured for a quarter of the season.
Four straight losing seasons combined with a massive contract -- Ryan had a cap hit of over $48 million -- made Ryan a potentially expendable player. And now, like so many of his contemporaries -- Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson -- he'll finish his career somewhere other than where it started.
Mariota, 28, spent the past two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders and has dealt with numerous injuries, appearing in one game in 2020 and 10 games in 2021. The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon and No. 2 pick of the 2015 NFL draft initially signed a two-year, $17.6 million free-agent contract with $7.5 million guaranteed to be a change-of-pace quarterback behind Las Vegas starter Derek Carr.
Last season, Mariota saw action in 10 games. In the season-opening win against the Baltimore Ravens, he played one snap, breaking off a 31-yard run. But he was shaken up on the play and went on IR with a quadriceps injury and did not play again until Week 7, after coach Jon Gruden resigned. Mariota was mostly used in specific packages on the season and rushed for 87 yards, on 13 carries, and a TD.
Mariota has never played a full season and last started as many as 15 games for the Titans in 2017. Since then, he has appeared in 14, seven, one and 10 games, starting 13, six, zero and zero, respectively.
He has thrown for 13,437 yards and rushed for 1,574 with 77 passing touchdowns, 45 interceptions and 13 rushing scores in seven NFL seasons.
ESPN's Mike Wells, David Purdum and Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.
Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot explain what led to 'very amicable' split. The Falcons made the decision to move on from Matt Ryan during the 2022 NFL offseason. Atlanta traded its quarterback of 14 years to the Colts in exchange for a 2022 third-round draft pick.
TRADING FOR QB MATT RYAN
By acquiring two third-round picks from the Washington Commanders for Wentz, and using the latter of those picks to acquire Ryan, Indianapolis upgraded at the quarterback position hopefully for the foreseeable future (though Ryan will be 37 years old in 2022).
Marcus Mariota signed a 2 year, $18,750,000 contract with the Atlanta Falcons, including a $5,000,000 signing bonus, $6,750,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $9,375,000.
The move came after the Falcons attempted and failed to trade for Deshaun Watson, which forced Ryan to explore other options. He found an opportunity in Indianapolis after the Colts traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders.
$12M of 2023 salary fully guaranteed upon Indianapolis acquiring him (contains offsets) 2023 Roster Bonus: $10M (guarantees 3/17/2023, injury guaranteed now) Additional $7,205,882 of 2023 salary fully guarantees 3/17/2023, injury guaranteed now) $23.25M of signing bonus deferred until April 2019.
The trade reaps valuable draft capital, frees up some salary-cap space in 2022 and sets the Falcons up to have a significant amount of cap space in 2023, creating the financial flexibility essential to the franchise's long-term health.
Trade value on the open market is 7.86 which ranks him 25th among quarterback's and 405th overall.
Matt Ryan honored by HOF with appropriately numbered football. Now with Indianapolis, Ryan set a career mark of 60,000 passing yards in the Colts' Week 1 tie against the Houston Texans. It's an impressive accomplishment, considering he's just the eighth player in NFL history to reach that total.
Matt Ryan benched: What do the Colts have in new starting QB Sam Ehlinger? The Colts are going from a quarterback who's won NFL MVP and thrown for over 62,000 yards in his NFL career to a 24-year-old, former sixth-round pick with exactly zero regular-season attempts on his resume.
A four-star recruit according to 247sports.com.
|1||Quentin Coryatt Linebacker||$5,090,000|
|2||Steve Emtman Defensive End||$5,025,000|
|3||Warren Moon Quarterback||$4,000,000|
|4||Sean Gilbert Defensive Tackle||$3,750,000|
After two years as Derek Carr's backup in Las Vegas, Mariota was signed by the Falcons shortly after the team traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The move reunites Mariota with Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who previously worked with Mariota during their time with the Titans.
Ryan is done. He's out. He won't play again, for reasons rooted in his contract. Put simply, once the team decided (and it was clear from coach Frank Reich's comments that owner Jim Irsay made the decision) that Ryan won't be the quarterback in 2023, it was time to pull the plug on 2022.
Ryan's contract, which began in 2018 when he was a member of the Falcons, pays him $12 million in base salary in 2023 — this money is fully guaranteed.
The Miami Dolphins gave up a lot for Tyreek Hill. Miami traded five draft picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for Hill: a first-rounder, a second-rounder, two fourths and a sixth. Then the Dolphins gave Hill a $120 million deal over four years. It was one of the biggest moves of the NFL offseason.
Brady's 2022 base salary and bonuses don't quite add up to as much as he has made in the past. He'll be paid just $1.12 million in base salary, while his big money comes from a $13.88 million roster bonus spread out over a reported five years.
|Contract:||1 yr(s) / $870,000|
|Free Agent:||2016 / UFA|
- Titans QB Ryan Tannehill: $38,600,000.
- Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes: $35,793,381.
- Vikings QB Kirk Cousins: $31,416,668.
- Lions QB Jared Goff: $31,150,000.
- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: $28,533,569.
- Commanders QB Carson Wentz: $28,294,119.
- Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: $23,016,000.
Ryan's time with the Falcons came to an end largely because of his team's pursuit of Deshaun Watson, according to ESPN.
The #Falcons will carry a $40.525 million dead cap hit in 2022 for Matt Ryan. That's actually a savings of $9,093,382 ... which they now will need to add a new starting QB. On the bright side, the Falcons will clear over $9 million in cap space for free agency as the team looks for a new starting quarterback.
Under the restructured deal, trading Ryan before June 1 would trigger a cap charge of $55.5 million for 2022. Under the current deal, a pre-June 1 trade would result in a cap charge of $40.525 million.
Having a no-trade clause in his contract certainly helped push that along and Ryan made it clear in his press conference on Tuesday that the decision was mostly up to him and his family.
RYAN HAS BEEN friends with Brady and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford for years.
Bill Conlin once didn't vote Nolan Ryan into the Hall because he wouldn't be his choice to pitch a Game 7. According to that logic, there should only be two pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and if someone better than one of them comes along, they must be kicked out.
In August, the NFL named former defensive lineman Joe Klecko, cornerback Ken Riley and linebacker Chuck Howley as this year's senior finalists and former coach Don Coryell as a contributor finalist. Each finalist needs to receive 80% of the vote in order to be inducted.
The 37-year-old is dealing with a Grade 2 shoulder separation that remains painful, and although Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that he thought Ryan would have found a way play on Sunday against Washington, Ryan admitted the injury is significant.
Veteran Matt Ryan, who started the Colts' first seven games of the 2022 season, is out with a shoulder sprain. Injury is not the sole reason for the quarterback switch, however. Colts coach Frank Reich said Ehlinger will be the team's QB1 for the remainder of this season.
Four starting quarterbacks in NFL history have wins over all 32 NFL teams: Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. No quarterback has ever lost to all 32 teams, but Matt Ryan can come the closest this season. Ryan has lost to 29 different teams in his NFL career, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Watkins finished his career with the Tigers with 240 receptions for 3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns. Looking back, it's obvious Watkins was a 6-star recruit.
According to the study, five-star recruits are worth an average of $650,000 per year to their program.
Ernie Sims was a first-round NFL draft pick in 2006 after playing at Florida State. Ernie Sims is still the only linebacker to be a consensus No. 1 overall prospect by all of the major recruiting services and picked his hometown team, Florida State, over offers from almost every other major college football program.
The NFL's First 100 Million Dollar Man. On March 1, 2001, Brett Favre signed a "lifetime" contract extension, a 10-year deal worth $100 million with the Green Bay Packers.
The selection was acquired by trading two 1980 first round draft picks (#13-Earl Cooper and #20-Jim Stuckey). Jones was ranked as the best wide receiver in the draft. The $2.1 million contract he received (equivalent to $6,900,000 in 2021) was the first in the NFL worth over a million dollars.
|Player||Total Contract Amount||Year Signed|
|Aaron Rodgers||$150.815 million||2022|
|Matt Ryan||$150 million||2018|
|Khalil Mack||$141 million||2018|
|Davante Adams||$140 million||2022|
“Marcus is the starter,” London told The Athletic. “That's how we're going into this thing.” Mariota's role was always expected after the team inked him to a two-year deal worth up to $18.75 million just a few days after they traded longtime starter Matt Ryan to the Colts.
The Atlanta Falcons have nine players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but one of them believes his spot in Canton isn't enough.
Report: Matt Ryan to Return as Falcons Quarterback in 2022
Smith will enter his second season with Atlanta in 2022. Ryan, 36, has spent all 14 of his professional seasons with Atlanta since being selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
Ryan's decline in 2021 was precipitated in large part by the departure of Julio Jones and the absence of Calvin Ridley for most of the season. The Falcons also faced the third-toughest defensive schedule in the NFL.
The Colts are starting Matt Ryan at quarterback in interim head coach Jeff Saturday's debut against the Raiders. Here's what you need to know: Prior to his firing, former Colts head coach Frank Reich benched Ryan, opting to go with Sam Ehlinger as the team's starter for the remainder of the season.
Here are the Indianapolis Colts' largest NFL salary cap hits for 2022, according to Spotrac. The NFL salary cap is $208.2 million per team. As you might expect, the quarterback gets paid the most. Matt Ryan has an $18.7 million salary cap hit, 8.79% of the Colts' total and 14th most in the league among QBs.
Matt Ryan has been a top-20 quarterback so far this season with the Indianapolis Colts.
According to Spotrac, Brady has earned about $300 million in his playing career and will be up to $333 million after the 2022 season.
Signing with the Dolphins meant a four-year, $120 million deal with $72.2 million guaranteed. Hill wanted respect more than anything, he said via Pro Football Talk, and his contract paired with the team's plan for his abilities made him want to leave the Chiefs.
More Tyreek Hill contract details: The $72.2 million becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the 2023 league year. The other $52.535 million is fully guaranteed at signing.
Editor's note: The Chiefs agreed to trade Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins for five draft picks, including a first-rounder in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Falcons quickly replaced Ryan by announcing that they had agreed to a two-year contract with Marcus Mariota, a free agent most recently with the Las Vegas Raiders. Mariota spent five seasons with the Tennessee Titans when Falcons Coach Arthur Smith was an assistant coach with that team.
The Titans shipped a 2022 second-round pick to the Falcons in exchange for Jones. The veteran receiver came with a $23 million cap hit, so Tennessee had to rework some of their contracts to fit Jones in under the salary cap.
Ryan's contract, which began in 2018 when he was a member of the Falcons, pays him $12 million in base salary in 2023 — this money is fully guaranteed. He has $7.2 million in additional 2023 salary that's guaranteed in case of injury.
The Atlanta Falcons freed up some cap space by restructuring linebacker Deion Jones' contract on Tuesday. Jones, the team's highest-paid player, had $8.5 million of his salary converted into a $6.8 million bonus.
|4||Las Vegas Raiders LV||$198,660,542|
After spending years in salary cap hell, the Falcons will have some serious cash to spend when the 2023 offseason rolls around. According to Over The Cap's projections, the team is slated to have around $74 million in cap space next year.
He won't be wearing No. 8, the number he has worn since his days with the Oregon Ducks. Mariota will be wearing No. 1 as he begins his career with the Falcons.
Marcus Mariota began the season as the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. He remains the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta and the 30-year-old agreed on a new contract that made Jones the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver, the team announced Saturday. ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Jones will receive $64 million at signing as part of the "landmark" agreement of $66 million guaranteed over three years.
There have been several notable trades this offseason, but the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons pulled off one of the more intriguing ones, as the latter sent seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to Nashville in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick.
If the Falcons were to trade for Watson, they would need to find someway to clear $53.8 million in cap space. This is to make up for the $18 million loss from trading Matt Ryan and taking in Watson's $35 million salary, all of which is guaranteed in 2022.