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ATLANTA – After 14 seasons in which he became the best quarterback in franchise history, Matt Ryan moves on from the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday in exchange for a 2022 third-round 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 plan from their time with the Tennessee Titans. Mariota’s deal is worth two years, $ 18.75 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Smith and Mariota worked together in several capacities during the five years they were with the Titans, including Mariota’s six games starting in the 2019 season. It was Smith’s first year as the Titans’ offensive coordinator.
The Colts were desperate for a quarterback after swapping Carson Wentz for 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 Reichs term of office.
The Colts and Ryan are restructuring their contract, with a source telling Jeremy Fowler to ESPN that the two years and $ 53.9 million left on his contract are now guaranteed in some form, pretty much in full, which also could give Indianapolis some relief.
The third round the Colts send the Falcons after Ryan is their original third round, No. 82 overall, not one of the choices they got from Washington to Wentz, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
“We’re glad we had a chance to acquire a recognized veteran of Matt Ryan, who brings tremendous experience to our team,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said in a statement. “Matt’s leadership and skills will complement the growth and success of our roster. He has long been a great ambassador for the NFL and Atlanta Falcons, and we are excited that he can continue his accomplished career in Indianapolis.”
Reich added in a statement that he has long “admired Matt for his stable, methodical approach to the game.”
The Colts have been looking for a long-term response since Andrew Luck retired in August 2019. Ryan will be the second quarterback at the end of his career that the Colts have acquired in the last 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 of winning the Super Bowl improved slightly after the prey, with Caesars Sportsbook moving Indianapolis from 30-1 to 25-1.
Talks about Ryan’s departure picked up speed at the start of the new league year as the Falcons became part of a group of teams asking about trade with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Higher-ups throughout the Atlanta 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 a $ 7.5 million roster bonus back to Monday to both let the Watson courtship play out and allow Ryan to seek out trading partners. Watson ended up giving up 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 deal will leave a $ 40.525 million dead-money charge on the Falcons’ pay cap this season. It’s the biggest known dead-money charge for any player ever, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Atlanta now has more than $ 62 million in dead money for the 2022 season, as it also has $ 15.5 million on the books for last year’s Julio Jones trade and more than $ 4 million to release Dante Fowler Jr. earlier this year, along with a few others moving.
Weeks earlier, during Super Bowl week, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team had been considering a succession plan for Ryan the past few seasons. Pursuing Watson clearly became a succession opportunity. 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, for the past 14 years,” Blank said in a declaration . “It’s hard to exaggerate 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 candidate in the NFC, and he has been our quarterback through the most successful era in Falcon’s history. led us to the playoffs six times, including two NFC Championship games, and the first Super Bowl appearance under my leadership of the franchise.He holds every significant passing record in the club’s history, is an All-Pro, an NFL MVP and is without question by one of the greatest players in Falcon’s history He will one day be added to our Ring of Honor, and it is my conviction that a bust in Canton will follow shortly.
“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 interest of both the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan.”
As the season ended, Smith constantly praised Ryan, but stopped committing to him being the team’s quarterback in 2022 – and kept saying he did not want to back himself up in a corner, despite how much he respects the veteran leader.
“I have so much respect for Matt Ryan and what he has meant to this franchise and to me personally in our one year together. Matt was the ultimate professional and teammate every day. I am grateful for our time together and wish him and his family the best when they move on 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 at the club in his 15th season – something he had said every time he had been asked about it for months. He said he believed in Smith, in what the Falcons built, and in what they did with the list they had.
Ryan, who turns 37 in May, had been a capable man for the Falcons since he was drafted No. 3 overall in 2008 by the club. The Falcons had hoped he would be the next franchise quarterback after Michael Vick, whom the team moved on from after a dogfight scandal that sent him to jail.
Almost immediately, Ryan turned out to be a good selection. His first pass was a touchdown – 62 yards to Michael Jenkins – and he finished 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 solid player on the most important position in sports.
In 14 years in Atlanta, he missed just three games – two in 2009 and one in 2019. He threw for at least 4,000 yards each season from 2011 to last season, where he threw 3,968 yards. He has had at least 20 touchdown passes each year since his 2008 rookie season, when he was 16.
Ryan managed 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 of 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. The Super Bowl becomes one of his enduring legacies with the Falcons. Atlanta led 28-3 over the Patriots in the third quarter, but ended up losing 34-28 in overtime.
Ryan and the team reached the playoffs next year, in 2017, but the Falcons have not had a winning record at any time since.
In those four seasons, Ryan has been fired 40 or more times in each season. He has rarely had competent defenses around him over the last four seasons, and last season he played with a list that saw the trade with 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 equally lost seasons combined with a massive contract – Ryan had a cap of over $ 48 million – made Ryan a potential consumer player. And now he, like so many of his contemporaries – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson – wants to end his career somewhere other than where it started.
Mariota, 28, spent the past two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders and has handled several injuries, appearing in one game in 2020 and 10 games in 2021. Winner of the Heisman Trophy in 2014 from Oregon and No. 2 in the 2015 NFL- the draft. originally signed a two-year, $ 17.6 million free-agent contract with $ 7.5 million guaranteed to be a pace-changing 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 a snap and interrupted a 31-yard run. But he was shaken on the game and went on IR with a quadriceps injury and only played again in week 7, after coach Jon Gruden resigned. Mariota was mostly used in specific packages on the season and rushed 87 yards, on 13 carries and a TD.
Mariota has never played an entire 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 in 13,437 yards and rushed for 1,574 with 77 passing touchdowns, 45 interceptions and 13 rushing goals in seven NFL seasons.
ESPN’s Mike Wells, David Purdum and Paul Gutierrez contributed to this report.