With Falcons Mini Camp wrapping up Thursday and the 2013 training camp schedule released, all eyes are on star QB Matt Ryan to see how he has recovered since coming up ten yards short against the San Francisco 49ers, blowing a 24-14 lead in the second half of the NFC Championship game.
On his final drive, Ryan took a hard hit from 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, injuring his left (non-throwing) shoulder. The next two downs resulted in incomplete passes and an incomplete season for the #1-seeded Falcons. Ryan avoided surgery on his separated shoulder and Head Coach Mike Smith assures fans that Ryan will be back, “beyond 100 percent”.
More importantly, Matt Ryan’s contract expires at the end of the 2013 season so the question remains: Will Matt Ryan finally be given the monetary respect he deserves?
Ryan has proven he is an elite quarterback, leading the Falcons to another 13-win season and finally getting his first career playoff victory against Seattle before losing to the 49ers in the NFC championship game.
His stats are on par with quarterbacks like Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and the Cowboy’s Tony Romo, both of whom just received massive contract extensions. In fact, Flacco’s contract, a six-year $120.6 million contract, makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Flacco’s contract comes in wake of an impressive 2012 season that led the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl victory in twelve years.
In comparison, Ryan is the same age as Flacco and is five years younger than Tony Romo. Over his past four seasons, he has gradually stepped up his game each year. His rookie season, Ryan threw for 2916 yards and 22 touch down passes. The 2010 season saw an increase to 3705 yards and 28 TD passes. Finally, in 2011, Ryan exceeded the 4000-yard mark for the first time and threw 29 TD passes. Though he led the Falcons to a 13-win season, he still had yet to garner that exclusive elite quarterback status due to his lack of playoff victories. After the 2012 season in which he threw for an impressive 4719 yards and 32 TD passes that led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game, many think that Ryan has finally reached the exclusive club of elite quarterbacks.
While Ryan may have gained the respect of fans, players, and the media, the final piece of respect that he needs in order to be compared to the likes of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers or Saints QB Drew Brees is a hearty contract extension. By the looks of the Atlanta Falcons’ salary cap, the organization has the ability to give Ryan the contract extension he deserves.
Ryan is the only star player who is up for an extension in the 2013 season, and even though star players like wide receiver Julio Jones, running back Jacquizz Rodgers, cornerback Asante Samuel, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon all have contracts that expire after the 2014 season, the fact that the Falcons are currently about $20 million below their expected salary cap (according to Over-the-Cap) shows that the organization has the space to reward Ryan with a wealthy contract extension.
The only factor that seems to stand in the way of the Falcons establishing Matt Ryan as an elite quarterback (at least in monetary terms) is the recent desire to acquire the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Richard Seymour. Though the Falcons and Seymour were both interested, negotiations have subsided due to the inability of the two sides to reach a salary agreement.
Though the addition of Seymour would help the Falcons’ defense, the inability of the Falcons to come to terms with Seymour alludes to the notion that they are holding out for an impressive contract for QB Matt Ryan. According to various reports, conversations have already occurred between Ryan and the Falcons’ organization with the expectation for negotiations to heat up just like the Atlanta weather after July 4th.