Matt Ryan owns virtually every meaningful passing record in Atlanta Falcons history, and if he plays 2022 on his current contract, he will have the biggest salary cap hit in NFL history at $48.7 million according to Spotrac.
General manager Terry Fontenot inherited a salary cap mess when he took over the Atlanta Falcons last January. His predecessor Thomas Dimitroff played fast and loose with owner Arthur Blank’s money when it came to big contracts financed with big-signing bonuses that kicked the biggest cap hits down the road.
Fontenot was forced to restructure Ryan’s contract in 2021 to get under the salary cap along with such moves as trading a disgruntled Julio Jones.
Fontenot faces an interesting choice in 2022 with his 37-year old quarterback. Ryan’s cap hit is so large because of the restructuring he’s done in the past as his base salary is just $16.3 million.
Does Fontenot and the Falcons live with the hit in 2022 and leave one year left on Ryan’s contract?
Or do they extend Ryan again, giving short term salary cap relief, but tying more future money to Ryan?
If the Falcons bite the bullet and keep Ryan’s current contract in 2022, they’ll have considerably more flexibility in 2023 when Ryan’s dead-cap number drops from $40.5 million to $15.6 million.
See, even if the Falcons get rid of Ryan this year without restructuring his contract, he still counts $40.5 million against the cap, AND the Falcons would need to find (and pay) his replacement.
It would be a painful 2022 with little financial flexibility to address many of the team’s needs in free agency, but playing out this year with Ryan’s historic salary cap hit, would be the best thing for Atlanta long term.