Matt Ryan may not be going anywhere this offseason.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen ruled out the Atlanta Falcons quarterback as a successor to Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Mortensen, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith indicated to team owner Arthur Blank and general manager Terry Fontenot he wants Ryan back for the 2022 NFL season.
Even if the Falcons were content to move on from the four-time Pro Bowler, the five-year, $150 million extension he signed in 2018 would make it financially difficult to do so.
By releasing or trading Ryan before June 1, Atlanta would be on the hook for $40.5 million in dead money for 2022 while saving only $8.1 million, per Spotrac. Waiting until after June 1 would save the team $23.8 million in 2022 but carry $24.9 million and $15.6 million, respectively, over the next two years in dead money.
Last offseason saw the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams light a lot of money on fire in order to make a quarterback change. But the Falcons would be in a class by themselves in that regard if they did the same.
Dan Graziano @DanGrazianoESPN
The Eagles will carry a $33.8 million dead-money cap charge for Carson Wentz in 2021. That will be the largest dead money charge in NFL history. Previous record would have been the $22.2 million the Rams will carry this year for Jared Goff. The 2016 draft sure was interesting.
Considering Ryan is due to carry a $48.7 million salary-cap hit in 2022 and a $43.6 million hit in 2023, a team acquiring him would almost certainly look to restructure his contract. That could be another hurdle in any negotiations.
In a vacuum, the Falcons should probably have somebody else running the offense next year.
Ryan has thrown for 3,752 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 67.4 percent completion rate through 16 games. That's reasonable production for a player who turned 36 last May.
But the Falcons aren't going anywhere in the short term. They entered Week 18 with a 7-9 record, sitting 25th in Bleacher Report's NFL power rankings.
"The more likely plan of action is improving the team around Ryan," Atlanta's summary reads. "But that's not going to be especially easy either. This team is in need of help on the offensive line. And at edge-rusher. And in the secondary. And at wide receiver."
Fontenot has a lot of areas to address this winter, and Ryan's contract won't make it easy to make the necessary upgrades. The problem is the franchise can't start over, either, without sacrificing a lot of cap flexibility.
As a result, Ryan and the Falcons appear to be stuck with each other for at least one more year.