Matt Ryan Set Up for Failure by Atlanta Falcons and NFL

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst IMay 20, 2008

Matt Ryan who did not have a stellar career in college. His stats were not that impressive.

He did not win a Heisman, he did not win an ACC championship, and did not played in a BCS bowl.

However his 2007 stats are pretty impressive and had some clutch performances in there as well, ie: great 4th quarter comeback vs. Virgina Tech.

That being said, no one was claiming he is a must have quarterback. He was merely the "best" quarterback in a weak 2008 class.

Today, May 20, 2008, Matt Ryan is being rewarded for coming out in a year with this weak quarterback class and has signed a 6 year deal worth 72 million dollars. This includes $34.75 million guaranteed just for signing the dotted line.

This is a trend that the NFL has been showing for the last 10+ years. Rookie contracts always get increased versus the previous year. Take a look at the top picks from 2007 dating back to 1998. Can you pick the 7 players of these 11 that are either out of the NFL, have not played a down, or have not lived up to their contracts?


JaMarcus Russell, QB (Raiders) – Six years, $60 million ($31 million guaranteed)


Mario Williams, DE (Texans) – Six years, $62.1 million ($26.9 million guaranteed)


Alex Smith, QB (49ers) – Six years, $49.5 million ($24 million guaranteed)


Eli Manning, QB (Chargers, traded to NY Giants) – Six years, $54 million ($20 million guaranteed)


Carson Palmer, QB (Bengals) – Seven years (voidable to 6), $49 million ($10.01 million guaranteed)


David Carr, QB (Texans) – Seven years, $46.2 million ($10.92 million signing bonus)


Michael Vick, QB (Falcons) – Six years, up to $62 million ($3 million signing bonus)


Courtney Brown, DE (Browns) – Six years, up to $45 million ($10.9 million signing bonus)


Tim Couch, QB (Browns) - Seven years, up to $48 million ($12.25 million signing bonus)


Peyton Manning, QB (Colts) - Six years, up to $48 million ($11.6 million signing bonus)


Ryan Leaf (2nd pick) , QB (Chargers) - Five years, up to $31.25 million ( $11.25 million signing bonus)
There is an obvious issue with the NFL rookie contracts. These teams are paying kids based on the potential that they are going to be good. We sit and debate now if Matt Ryan is worth this money, but none of us know the answer. Is it right for the Falcons to play this guessing game with us, but have to pay out this astronomical amount of money while playing the game?

If these guys bust which about 60% (including Vick who is in jail) of these top picks have since 1998, the teams are, as they say, SOL.

I am a huge fan of the NFL and believe that for the most part, it is run perfectly. Hopefully the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) will get resolved and we will continue to see a salary cap and allow small market teams to compete. However, the NBA has a very good contract system in place as well.

Their system slots rookies by dollars and years, which makes sense for the league, team, and player.

LeBron James, arguably one of the best players in the league, received a three-year, $12.96 million rookie contract. In the NBA all of this money is guaranteed, however it breaks down to $4.32 million per year. In 2006, after living up to his hype, he signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension.

The NFL needs to take a hint from the NBA and try to get this type of rookie contracting implemented in the next CBA.

Peyton Manning will make $11.5 million in 2008, Tom Brady is set to make $14.7 million in 2008. They have 5 Super Bowl appearances and 4 rings between them.

Based on my math, $72 million over 6 years equates to Matt Ryan making roughly $12 million in 2008. He has not played a down in the NFL yet. (Note: the aforementioned math does not take into account the record signing bonus he received, which scales down the per-year average)

Now please go re-read the paragraph on how Lebron James is being paid and compare the NFL to the NBA pay structure.

Matt Ryan will walk into camp making more money then everyone on his team. It is hard to expect a veteran on the Falcons who has worked his butt off for several years to show much respect to a 22, 23 year old kid who is supposed to be the new face of the franchise.

This is too much to ask of both the veterans and the pride they have, and of Matt Ryan to fulfill these lofty expectations.

Matt Ryan is set up for failure and it is not entirely his fault if he does fail (after all, the Falcons are a marginal team at best).

He may not be as good as the money he is being paid, but he is just reaping the benefits of a flawed system.

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