Given the current challenges the Saints are having in New Orleans with salary cap space, re-signing their free-agents, and having to franchise Drew Brees, no NFL fan or Falcons fan envies that position. Every team in the league is looking to extend the players it currently has on roster, restructure contracts to get under the salary cap or increase cap space, and which players it should cut to give it the best chance to win on the business end. One player who could prove instrumental in this is Matt Ryan. As Jamie Kelly already reported, the Falcons are looking to extend QB Matt Ryan which would help the team in the long term and short term.
After listening to a radio interview with Thomas Dimitroff on Atlanta’s 790 The Zone, he said the Falcons are not actively looking to extent Ryan, for obvious reasons. There are more pressing needs with free agency looming, franchise tagging Brent Grimes, and who to re-sign. But it would be wise for the Falcons to extend Ryan sooner rather than later. Here’s why.
1. Immediate Cap space. Ryan’s hit against the salary cap (amount of the $120 million each NFL team is allowed to pay in player salaries) will be $12 million in 2012. If a long term extension is reached, it is possible to lock him up for the long term and decrease the amount of money that he will cost each season. As an example, Ben Roethlisberger recently had his contract restructured. Originally he was scheduled to count $16+ million against the cap; after the restructure he would only cost the Steelers $8.9 million. Thats nearly $8 million in savings. Now Ryan’s restructure would not save that much, but it could help save $2-3 million. And that amount of money could be just enough to sign that next BIG free agent splash.
2. It keeps Ryan around for the long term. Ryan is very young, very talented, and is expected by experts and fans alike to improve. He has only played 4 seasons, which would indicate he has not yet fully hit his stride and peaked. Atlanta wants and needs to have him around while he is in his prime.
3. Sign him before he gets really expensive. I know this sounds fairly mercenary and heartless, but it makes perfect business sense. If we wait a year or until the end of the contract to re-sign/extend Ryan who knows to what new heights he and the Falcons would have reached? Imagine how much more money he would command if he posted a season where he threw 4500 yards, 35 TDs, 65% completions, and over 100 passer rating, and led the Falcons to one or more playoff victories! That is what I think Ryan is capable of and will give us within the next couple seasons (especially with protection up front). Why not extend him now, while he does not demand top-5 money, and allow us to sign further weapons through free agency for the future?
Extending the contract of Matt Ryan is not the most pressing need for this Falcons team, but it is something that should be considered, and I think Dimitroff needs to get done sooner rather than later. If not, the Falcons could suffer a fate similar to what the Saints are currently undergoing–having their team split up, piece by piece.