Matt Ryan to the Colts is a win for everyone involved
Matthew Crow | Tuesday, March 22, 2022
I was walking out of class on Monday afternoon when I saw the alert on my phone: The Falcons had traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for a third-round pick in this year’s draft.
My initial reaction was sadness. As a lifelong Falcons fan, Ryan has been my favorite NFL player since I started watching football. I hated that he finished his Falcons career with four straight losing seasons, and that the lasting memory of him with the team would be their epic Super Bowl collapse against the Patriots. I had wanted so badly for him to play his whole career in red and black and to lead the Falcons to their first Super Bowl victory. I thought he could be to the franchise what Eli Manning was to the Giants or what it looks like Aaron Rodgers might now be to the Packers. It stung even more to see someone who I believe is still one of the league’s best quarterbacks to be traded for just a single third-round pick (though this likely had more to do with his massive contract than the value of his on-field play).
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that this trade could work out well for both teams involved as well as for Ryan. For the Colts, it was clear that they had to make some kind of move at quarterback. They have a loaded roster that is ready to compete for a playoff berth, and their front office indicated their willingness to enter “win-now mode” by trading valuable assets for quarterback Carson Wentz before last season. With that experiment having failed, and with Wentz being sent to the Commanders, Indianapolis was left with a contending roster but no quarterback. With no clear path to a rebuild, the Colts’ only option was to remain aggressive and continue to go all in, and I think that trading for Ryan instantly makes them contenders in a loaded AFC.
I find it slightly more difficult to frame the trade as a positive for Atlanta, given that I believed they had a chance to compete for the NFC South crown this season with the Buccaneers and Saints both being expected to take a step back. However, the Falcons’ recent roster decisions, such as sending Julio Jones to Tennessee, have shown that the team is looking to reset under second-year head coach Arthur Smith. This is a sensible plan given the team’s struggles in recent years and the fact that Ryan will turn 37 before the start of the 2022 season. The trade gives the Falcons a draft pick with solid value and saves them approximately $9 million for the upcoming year. Atlanta has already signed former Raiders backup Marcus Mariota to replace Ryan, which gives them the opportunity to see if Mariota could be a long-term solution at quarterback while also maintaining flexibility to address the position in the draft.
However, despite how much sense this move makes for both teams, I think that the biggest winner of the trade is Matt Ryan, as much as it pains me to say it. Ryan has been the face of the franchise since the day he was drafted third overall in 2008, and he has been a consummate professional and an outstanding leader for the team and the Atlanta community. The Falcons made it clear that Ryan was not a part of their long-term plans by making a very public attempt to trade for now-Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson that ultimately failed. While I have no doubt that Ryan would have handled the potentially awkward situation with the utmost professionalism rather than publicly demand a trade or speak out against the team, it would have been a disservice to one of the greatest players in franchise history and a former MVP to force him to spend the final years of his prime as a lame duck quarterback on a team that is unlikely to make the playoffs, especially with star wide receiver Calvin Ridley suspended for the entire 2022 season.
Ryan now has a great opportunity to finally earn the Super Bowl ring that has eluded him for so long and to cement himself as a Hall of Famer. The general consensus among fans and media seems to be that his best years are behind him, but I believe that Indianapolis is the perfect place for him to prove that he still has something left in the tank.
It’s always tough to see someone who means so much to a franchise and a city change teams (Atlanta has now dealt with this twice in the last week after former Braves star Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers), but it makes it a little easier knowing that, with the situation being what it was, this trade was the best possible option for Ryan and could help the Falcons return to prominence in the near future. Until then, though, I’ll be watching Ryan use this season to show the NFL world that he’s not done just yet.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.