Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws in the pocket against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan's new contract could cost the Falcons in a major way

After posting a career year in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons will look to give a contract extension to franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s a very good quarterback, and his best years are still ahead of him. But in this day and age, having a franchise-type quarterback who only has one year left on his current contract isn’t an enviable situation to be in.

The first example of what to look at is Matt Ryan’s first contract. He was taken #3 overall in the 2008 draft, a time before the current salary rules, so the Falcons threw money at him to sign him. Those days are long past for newly drafted players, but for those looking for new contracts, it provides more incentive for getting money. And that’s certainly going to be more than the 6-year, $66 Million contract Ryan got back in 2008.

So where to go from there? We can look at the contract of Drew Brees at the other end of the spectrum. His 5-year $100 Million contract made him the highest paid player in NFL history. It set a precedent for what quarterbacks in the future would shoot for in their future negotiations. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Ryan and his agent, Tom Condon, will shoot for a contract of the magnitude of Brees’. Word is that Joe Flacco is shooting for that type of contract as well, based on his tremendous post-season success. As nice as those contracts are, they set their respective teams back a pretty penny. Brees’ contract sent the Saints from a less than ideal salary-cap situation, to essentially putting them in cap-hell.

Matt Ryan’s numbers are much better than Flacco’s in the regular season, and with the Falcons victory over the Seahawks, he proved that he can be successful and victorious in the playoffs. That’s no longer in doubt. We could get into all of the semantics surrounding a Matt Ryan vs. Joe Flacco comparison, which Ryan would win in the regular season, and Flacco would for the post-season. But the quest for the first to get that huge contract isn’t really the most important thing. The real comparison is just how much will Ryan make?

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. If Ryan’s best years are truly ahead of him, the way we all believe, then it may make sense to give him that massive Brees-Style contract. The precedent has been set. But how much should he really make? I’m guessing somewhere close, something like $18 Million per year.

But the most important thing is the Falcons have to be cap-savvy about the thing. They need to not put themselves in a situation where they wouldn’t be able to sign new free-agents, or worse, not re-sign their own free-agents. It’s a delicate situation, but they must handle it properly.

We will see how things pan out. And there may not even be a resolution to all of this until the end of next season, when Ryan’s rookie contract runs its course. I hope the Falcons give Ryan a contract worthy of a franchise player, but they need to handle it carefully so as to not mortgage their future on a single contract. Just ask the Saints.

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