So if Matthew Stafford, who has never won an NFL playoff game, is worth a $135 million contract with a $50 million signing bonus and $92 million guaranteed, what's Matt Ryan worth? The Falcons will have to figure that out soon.
Ryan signed a five-year, $103.75 million contract extension in the summer of 2013 that kicked in for the 2014 season. His current contract expires after the 2018 season, but it's expected the team will follow that same timeline and try to work a new deal before next summer (if not sooner).
Some questioned Ryan's value when he had the worst season of his career in 2015, by most measurables, even if some of the issues could be attributed to: 1) Poor offensive line play; 2) Overall team struggles in the first year of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system. But a year later, nobody was questioning Ryan's value. He won the NFL's MVP award, powered the highest-scoring offensive in the NFL, led the league in multiple categories including quarterback efficiency (117.1), threw 38 touchdowns against only seven interceptions and led the team to the Super Bowl.
Start with this: Ryan isn't going anywhere. The Falcons won't let that happen.
The only question is where Ryan fits in. Aaron Rodgers' contract (five years, $110 million) is scheduled to expire after the 2019 season, but he'll almost certainly receive a new deal before then. Some are speculating he could be the first NFL player with a $200 million contract. He's the consensus best quarterback in the NFL, has won two MVPs and a Super Bowl and he's 33 years old. (Tom Brady is still playing at a high level at 40.)
Working with the five-year model, Ryan's deal likely will fit in south of Rodgers' ($175 million to $200 million) but north of Stafford's ($135 million) and Oakland's Derek Carr's ($125 million).
Ryan's deal probably won't crush the Falcons in the salary cap because they've been planning for this, but they'll definitely have to finesse the structure of the deal.
One last thing: A lot of folks (particularly Detroit fans) are upset about Stafford's deal, given the Lions' overall lack of success. But the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and, truth is, there aren't a ton of great quarterbacks.
Stafford, the former Georgia quarterback, is not without flaws. But most of Detroit's problems are elsewhere. He easily could that contract (if not more) on the open market. The Lions have made the playoffs three times in his eight seasons (2011, 2014, 2016) and this comes after failing to make the playoffs 11 straight years. Detroit last won a playoff game in 1991, when Erik Kramer could hand off the ball to Barry Sanders.
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