The Matt Ryan era in Atlanta has come to an end as the Atlanta Falcons have traded their quarterback of the last 14 seasons to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The return of just a third-round pick for Ryan is shocking to most, but the Falcons were eager to accelerate their rebuild even if it means taking on $40 million in dead-cap money this year, the largest figure in NFL history.
Dead-cap money is money already paid to a player in the form of guarantees across the life of his contract, but when he is moved they are piled on the current year. Consider a player who gets a $100 million signing bonus on a 10-year deal. If he’s cut or traded after his fifth season, the remaining $50 million from the signing bonus counts against the team’s cap.
The Falcons will have $40 million of Ryan’s previous contract count against them as well as $15.5 million of Julio Jones’s contract count towards the cap.
They’ve ripped off the bandage and embraced the rebuild. That’s $55 million worth of salary that they won’t be able to put on the field.
2022 is going to be a dumpster fire for this team, but they’ll enter 2023 with a probably top-two draft pick and over $100 million in salary cap room. That’s when the healing can begin.
The Falcons have some PR work to do with their franchise. They tried and failed on Deshaun Watson, a controversial player, alienating Ryan and many of their fans in the process. A third-round pick isn’t going to sit well with fans for a quarterback who has a chance to move into the Top 5 passing next season.
UPDATE_ The Falcons have signed their bridge quarterback for 2022 in Marcus Mariota.
And they’re going to be bad in 2022.. real bad.
General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith need to own it, and lay out the rebuilding plans. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited… for 2023… but 2023 is a long way off in the ATL.