Quarterback market settles as Falcons work on Matt Ryan’s contract extension

The winds of quarterback change were intense as the NFL began its new business year on Wednesday.

The Falcons, who are in the midst of negotiating a contract extension with quarterback Matt Ryan, had to pay close attention with the hopes that deals didn’t spin out of control in free agency.

The key deal for the Falcons was the Vikings giving former Redskins signal caller Kirk Cousins a three-year, $84 million deal that averages $28 million. After the 49ers signed unproven Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million deal ($27.5 million average), there was a free-agency scenario where quarterback-starved teams would get into bidding war for Cousins and make the annual salaries at the position soar.

The Cardinals missed out and ended up giving the often-injured Sam Bradford a one-year, $20 million deal. Case Keenum went to the Broncos on a two-year $36 million deal. Teddy Bridgewater went to the Jets on a one-year deal worth $15 million.

With much now settled, the Falcons can breathe a bit easier. They can finish work on an extension for Ryan that will average close to $30 million per year.

The other big deal for the Falcons was Drew Brees re-signing with the Saints,  reportedly a two-year, $50 million deal. Now his agent, who also represents Ryan, can turn his attention to their franchise.

Both sides talked at the NFL scouting combine earlier this month. It’s expected to be a short negotiation now that could end with a six-year extension in the $180 million range for Ryan, who’s arguably the best quarterback in franchise history.

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 has rallied the Falcons with 36 game-winning drives and has staged 27 fourth-quarter comebacks.

Ryan, a former NFL MVP, has been incredibly durable, starting all 16 games in 9 of his 10 seasons. Only a wicked turf toe injury kept him out of two games in 2009.

Ryan, who turns 33 on May 17, has helped make the Falcons legitimate title contenders after being selected with the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft.

The Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs five 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 league champion in the Packers after the 2010 season, the Giants after the 2011 season and the 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.

The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is also in line for a lucrative contract this offseason.

“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,” Falcons general manager Thomas 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.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank was not worried about the deals for the other quarterbacks without Ryan’s resume.

“I don’t care about the other quarterbacks’ movement,” Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at Super Bowl LII. “What I care about is taking care of our quarterback in a way that’s respectful to him and in a way that is respectful to the franchise.”