“This extension was our primary focus this offseason,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Matt has been a pillar of stability for this franchise for a decade, and it is a great feeling knowing that he will remain at our helm for six more years.”
The parties have been working on the details of a new deal for several months.
“Matt has proven to be a leader for this franchise on and off the field, and we are fortunate to have him as our quarterback,” Dimitroff said. “Matt has guided us to a decade of success that is unmatched in franchise history, but we all know there is more to be accomplished, and we are confident we can get that done with Matt.”
Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowler and former league most valuable player, guided the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance.
Ryan was already scheduled to earn $19.250 million in base salary this season before the extension. The Falcons missed their window to close a deal for an extension that might have lowered Ryan’s salary cap figure before the start of free agency.
While guiding the Falcons to the playoffs six times and to one Super Bowl, Ryan has completed 3,630 of 5,593 passes (64.9 percent) for 41,796 yards, 260 touchdowns and 126 interceptions. He has a career passer rating of 93.4. The attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns are all-time franchise records.
Ryan, who holds more than 20 franchise records, has been incredibly durable, starting all 16 games in 9 of 10 seasons. Only a wicked turf toe injury kept him out of two games in the 2009 season.
Ryan has rallied the Falcons to victory with 36 game-winning drives and has staged 27 fourth-quarter comebacks
Ryan, who’s set to turn 33 on May 17, has helped make the Falcons legitimate title contenders after being drafted with the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft.
The Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs fives times since drafting Ryan and each time they were defeated by the team that went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, three times losing to the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Green Bay Packers after the 2010 season, the New York Giants after the 2011 season and the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Overall, Ryan has a 95-63 regular season record. He is 4-6 in 10 playoff games with the appearance in Super Bowl LI.
Ryan, after a spectacular campaign in his ninth season in the league, was named the NFL’s most valuable player in 2017, the day before playing in his first Super Bowl.
Ryan was also named the league’s most valuable player after the 2016 regular season by the Professional Football Writers of America.
With some pinpoint accuracy, Ryan led the league’s top-scoring offense, setting franchise records in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38) in that special 2016 season.
Ryan became the first Falcons player to earn the honor as his 117.1 passer rating was the fifth-highest in a season in NFL history. He had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games, tying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the most 100-plus rating games in a single season. He led the NFL with 9.3 yards per pass attempt and set an NFL record by completing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers.
After the outstanding regular season, Ryan guided the Falcons to victories of Seattle and Green Bay in the playoffs. He had the Falcons poised to win the franchise first-ever Super Bowl as they took a 28-3 lead late into the third quarter against the New England Patriots before there was a total collapse by the players and the coaches.
Ryan was set to play the last year on the five-year, $103.75 million contract extension that he received in 2012. A total of $59 million was guaranteed in that contract.
The Falcons opened negotiations with Ryan’s agent, Tom Condon, during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
The offseason quarterback market started to settle during the legal tampering period. The big deal for the Falcons was Drew Brees re-signing with the Saints reportedly a two-year, $50 million deal. The five-year $137.5 million deal that unproven Jimmy Garoppolo recently signed with San Francisco changed the market for quarterbacks again. Garoppolo’s deal averages $27.5 million per year.
The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is also in line for a lucrative contract this offseason.
Ryan’s friend, Matthew Stafford, signed a six-year, $135 million contract, with $92 million guaranteed, in August 2017 with Detroit. Stafford’s average yearly salary of $27 million was tops in the league at that time.
“It’s amazing to see where the cap has gone over the last 10 to 12 years and where the quarterback numbers are and where other numbers are when we start looking at franchise tag numbers,” Dimitroff said recently. “It’s unbelievable. Hopefully this sport continues to grow as it has and we’ll be looking at these numbers that are right around the corner in five years and we’ll be amazed that they are so low for quarterbacks.”
While the Falcons wanted to re-sign Ryan, they wanted to maintain enough salary-cap flexibility to sign key players in the future. The defense is full of young stars such as defensive end Vic Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, safety Keanu Neal, linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell.
Left tackle Jake Matthews also is coming up for an extension.
“Once (Kirk) Cousins got done, I always thought you were going to have to hit $100 million in guarantees and you were going to have to hit $30 per year,’ said Joel Corry, a NFL business analyst for CBS sports and former agent. “Make him the first $30 million per year guy. Tom Condon had the first $20 million per year guy with Drew Brees in 2012 so he probably wanted to see the first $30 million per year guy.”
There was no home-town discount in this deal.
“I always suspected that Matt Ryan was going to defer to Tom Condon and not do what Tom Brady does and force Don Yee to take below market deals,” Corry said. “You don’t give a discount.”
The Falcons currently have $1,314,282 million under the salary cap, according to NFLPA documents. They pick up $3.5 million from Levine Toilolo's post June 1 cut. The amount of Ryan's signing or option bonus may lower his cap number and create more salary cap space.
Owner Arthur Blank made it clear to his football executives that the Falcons are playing to win Super Bowls. He doesn’t want to settle just for making the playoffs. Locking up Ryan, the Falcons believe, is a step in that direction.