I recently came across this piece from ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas about how the Atlanta Falcons need to sign Matt Ryan to a contract extension now rather than later. It would be good to have long-term stability for our team based on our knowledge that Ryan will remain with the team for many more years. But based on what we have seen from recent contracts for franchise quarterbacks around the league, there are more reasons to give Ryan a contract extension very soon, or right after the end of the 2012 season.
Exhibit A- Ben Roethlisberger: The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was signed to an 8-year contract in 2008, and it was an extremely large contract ($102 Million). However, nearly every season the Steelers have had to re-structure his contract to help with their salary cap situation. Whenever they are in salary-cap purgatory, they know they can go to Roethlisberger for a re-structure and immediately get some money off the books for that season. It’s like having reserve emergency salary cap space- although that money does get shifted into future seasons.
This type of extension with a specific type of structuring would be beneficial for the Falcons and Ryan. Ryan is supposed to get around $12 M in 2013, and the Falcons cap situation isn’t very good next season. But they could specifically structure the contract so that they could keep Ryan’s $12M 2013 salary, but give him the huge increase in 2014 and subsequent seasons, when the team has a lot more cap room to work with. This is a way the Falcons could give him a contract now, without disrupting their 2013 cap situation.
Exhibit B- Drew Brees: Look at how the contract situation with Drew Brees and the Saints has disrupted their 2012 season. Obviously it’s not the only thing that has disrupted their season, the bounty program had a lot to do with that. But a contract struggle between a team and a player can become a major distraction. Not to mention that if a team is forced to pay boat loads of cash at a time when the team is limited financially, it can affect what that team can do in free-agency as well as signing its other free-agents.
Not allowing Ryan to hit the free market would prevent the situation from being a distraction to the Falcons, as well as allowing it to turn its attention to continuing to build the rest of the roster.
Exhibit C- Peyton Manning: In this past offseason, Manning was signed by the Denver Broncos to a 5-year $96 M contract. He’s been very good so far this season. But let’s face the facts, this contract was given to him based on what he has done in the past. It seemed like an exorbitant sum to pay a player who has suffered from several neck injuries/surgeries, and whose career seemed to be on the downward end.
Clearly he has been good statistically in 2012. But his best career years are likely (likely being the key word) behind him. This is where the Falcons could really benefit. Atlanta could offer him a contract on what he is going to do, things he hasn’t accomplished yet. And that would come cheaper than at the end of the season if Ryan is extremely successful or ends up being the NFL MVP or something of that nature. Either way, giving him a contract that could see him through his peak years and until near the end of his career should be high on the list of priorities for the Atlanta Falcons.