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Matt Ryan’s Contract – Not As Bad As You Think for Colts

After the blockbuster deal that sent the former MVP to Indianapolis, what does his contract look like with the Colts?

The question was not going away until the answer was found.

Who will be the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in 2022?

The NFL’s new league year is less than a week old, yet that question has been on the minds of Colts fans since the clock struck zeros in Jacksonville on January 16.

Since then, there have been numerous names tied to the Colts. Some thought the Colts would give Carson Wentz another shot after an up and down 2021. Once he was traded, the names that began to float around included Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston. Even Baker Mayfield has been mentioned the last few days.

It turns out, none will be the Colts starting quarterback in 2022. They'll look to an even bigger and better name instead.

It was announced on Monday that the Colts had acquired quarterback Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons for a 2022 third-round pick (No. 82 overall). Ryan is a four-time Pro Bowler and a former NFL MVP back in 2016. After spending his entire 14-year career in Atlanta, Ryan starts a new chapter in Indianapolis.

Over the last week, the Falcons had been one of the teams in pursuit of former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. After meeting with him last week, the Falcons lost out on Watson's services to the Cleveland Browns. After their push to land Watson with Ryan still on the roster, the relationship with Ryan had started to go south and a change was needed.

When discussing a trade for Ryan, one of the main talking points was the massive contract the other team would be taking on. However, did the Colts actually take on a bad contract? When looking at the numbers, it’s not nearly as bad as you may think.

In 2018, Ryan signed a five-year, $150 million extension with the Falcons, including $100 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac. In the years since the Falcons have worked with Ryan at least four times to restructure his contract and push money into future years to create cap space. However, that has now made his contract a massive burden on the team’s cap.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan looks over the middle agains tthe Bills.

Before the Falcons got in on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, it was reported the Falcons would be restructuring Ryan’s contract once again, converting $15 million of his base pay and roster bonus into a signing bonus to free up cap space. This was put on hold as the Falcons waited for Watson’s decision. On Friday, it was announced that the Falcons had agreed with Ryan to push his roster bonus of $7.5 million that would have been due on March 18 to March 22, giving the Falcons more time.

Ryan’s cap hit on the Falcons would have been $36.66 million for 2022. With the Falcons moving off of Ryan before his roster bonus was due, they will be charged a dead cap value of $43.5 million because of past guarantees and restructures.

This dead cap hit is easily the most in league history and means the Falcons will be paying over a quarter of their salary cap space for him to not be on their team.

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Now, does this mean that the Colts will be paying this much as well? Not at all.

Ryan still has two years and $51 million left on his deal. Since Ryan was traded before his roster bonus was due, the Colts will pay Ryan’s $16.25 million salary plus the $7.5 million roster bonus for a total cap hit of $23.75 million in 2022. In 2023, his salary is $20.5 million with a roster bonus of $7.5 million meaning his total cap hit would be $28 million.

Dec 26, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) attempts a pass against Detroit Lions defensive end Nick Williams (97) during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When looking at the rest of the league as a reference, Ryan’s cap hit for 2022 will rank him the 10th highest quarterback in the NFL at $23.75 million. His $28 million cap hit in 2023 will also rank 10th among quarterbacks that season. This is not an overly expensive option for a team looking to acquire a starting quarterback.

The Colts will be able to handle Ryan’s contract without any issues. Indy had $39.8 million in cap space for the 2022 season before their trade for Ryan, the most in the league according to Over the Cap. Ryan’s $23.75 million cap hit will still leave the Colts with $16.05 million in cap space to use on remaining free agents and draft picks.

If Ryan plays poorly in 2022 and the Colts want to move on after just one season, as they did with Wentz, there would be a dead cap charge in 2023. The Colts would incur a $15.6 million dead cap hit if they released Ryan before his roster bonus was due for the 2023 season. However, they would gain back $12.4 million in cap space if Ryan were to be cut, giving a net loss of $3.2 million on the 2023 cap.

The Colts will need to be smart with their remaining money after pulling off a trade for Ryan. With holes still at wide receiver, tight end, cornerback, and possibly left tackle, the Colts will need to find cheaper free agents or draft picks to help fill out these spots. The fact that the Colts were able to acquire Ryan for just a third-round pick is a huge plus.

The Colts finally have a viable starting quarterback in place for 2022. Now, the task at hand becomes surrounding Ryan with the talent needed to compete in the AFC.

Have thought's on what Matt Ryan's contract with the Colts looks like? Drop a line in the comments below and let us know how you feel!


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