Expert: Ryan’s contract left room for team to build around the franchise quarterback

<p>Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)</p>
<p>Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)</p>

Credit: 2018 Getty Images

Credit: 2018 Getty Images

For now, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.

He’s set to make $169.25 million over the next six seasons, after agreeing to a five-year $150 million contract extension Thursday. The contract has not been filed and posted by the NFLPA, but Andrew Brandt, a former executive with the Green Bay Packers, had seen the contract details.

“It looks pretty strong in terms of wanting to jump the averages that were out there,” said Brandt, who’s the director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for Sport Law at Villanova. “He was at $19.2 (million). It has $94 (million) in guarantees, real guarantees is like $74 (million) because he had $19 (million) coming already.”

The quarterback market shifted over the offseason after San Francisco agreed to a deal that averaged $27.5 million to the unproven Jimmy Garoppolo. In free agency, Minnesota gave Kirk Cousins a three-year guaranteed $84 million deal worth.

“What I look for in these deals, after the Cousins deal is anyone going to get a guarantee past his third year,” said Brandt, a graduate of Stanford and Georgetown Law. “It looks like he’s got some injury guarantees that can convert to full guarantees for $5.5 and that’s about it.”

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the midst of negotiating his new contract and it should top Ryan’s.

“It’s strong,” Brandt said of Ryan’s deal. “It’s $94 million over three (years). It kind of brings the new average up. It’s going to be the one that’s talked about until Aaron’s. But I did wonder if he’s going to get a fourth year guaranteed.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted to make sure the team took care of Ryan, but he also wanted to maintain some salary-cap room and flexibility to put a team around the star quarterback.

“Listen, it’s a cop out if a team says it can’t afford to build a team around a franchise quarterback,” Brandt said. “It just depends how you structure it. If he’s making $30 (million) a year, what’s the cap hit? Have they managed the cap so that it doesn’t all back up? The cap is like $170 (million) something -- (actually $177 million) --  you should be able to pay your most important player that.”

The salary cap has been rising with the proliferation of the quarterback salaries.

“In terms of how fast it’s going up, I did the first $100 million contract for Brett Favre at $10 million a year and that was 2001,” Brandt said. “So, now 17 years later, it’s $30 million a year. So, it’s gone up about a million point something a year.”

With the new deal, Ryan’s cap number went from $21.65 million to $17.7 million, freeing $3.95 million of additional cap room, according to Joel Corry, a NFL business analyst for CBS Sports.

So, with $1.3 million of salary-cap space, plus the $3.95 million from Ryan’s deal and the $3.5 million they pick up from the post-June 1 designation on released tight end Levine Toliolo, the Falcons will be at $8.75 million under the salary cap.

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