Matt Ryan, Freddie Freeman leave Atlanta, but they’re ‘not gone forever’

Atlanta sports is undergoing a makeover. Two community pillars, Freddie Freeman and Matt Ryan (above), changed teams this month.

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Atlanta sports is undergoing a makeover. Two community pillars, Freddie Freeman and Matt Ryan (above), changed teams this month.

PHOENIX — Atlanta sports is undergoing a makeover. Two community pillars, Freddie Freeman and Matt Ryan, changed teams this month.

Freeman was with the Braves for the past 12 years (15 in the organization). He won an MVP in 2020 and World Series in 2021. He was the beloved face of the franchise. After negotiations stalled, Freeman left in free agency for the Dodgers, an outcome no one expected a year ago.

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Ryan, meanwhile, was the Falcons’ quarterback since 2008. He oversaw some of the greatest seasons in franchise history, including the 2016 campaign when he won the MVP and led the Falcons to their second Super Bowl berth. The Falcons, primed for a rebuild and fresh off a failed Deshaun Watson pursuit, traded Ryan to Indianapolis a week ago.

Freeman’s and Ryan’s departures are among the most notable in Atlanta history. Their previous franchises are in different positions, however. The Braves acquired All-Star Matt Olson to replace Freeman. They’re coming off a championship and seemingly have a fair shot at repeating. Freeman’s Dodgers are likely their biggest roadblock to another National League pennant.

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The Falcons are starting from scratch. Marcus Mariota is their stopgap quarterback until they find their next franchise signal-caller, which could happen as soon as April’s draft. While the Falcons rebuild their talent base, Ryan will compete with the win-now Colts, who have a strong structure but have lacked consistent quarterback play since Andrew Luck’s career was disrupted by injuries, leading him to an early retirement.

“We're not gone forever. We're just gone for a little bit in life. I'm sure Matt and I will both find our way back to Atlanta."

- former Braves star Freddie Freeman

During a conversation Sunday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Freeman acknowledged it was strange that he and Ryan each left around the same time after spending so much time with their respective franchises. He also stressed it’s not a forever goodbye.

“Very crazy, definitely weird when you have two sports in the city that are main sports, that guys have been there for a long time are now not there,” Freeman said. “But luckily, (Atlanta has) Trae Young, and they have a lot of good people. You have Ronald (Acuna), Dansby (Swanson) has been there for a while. You have Josef Martinez. You have a lot of great people that are still there.

“We’re not gone forever. We’re just gone for a little bit in life. I’m sure Matt and I will both find our way back to Atlanta.”