Since signing his five-year $150 million contract extension on Friday, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has put the lucrative deal in perspective.
“I’ve always felt like that your job as a player is to go earn every dollar,” said Ryan, who’s now the NFL’s highest paid player, on Monday. “Have that mindset that every day you wake up, it’s about working as hard as you possibly can. I guess it’s more incentive for me moving forward for me to play my best football as I continue to mature in this league.”
Ryan, who turns 33 on May 17, signed his contract at owner Arthur Blank’s offices in Buckhead. He took along his new twin sons, Marshall and John, for the ceremony and a photo.
“One day, I’ll be able to tell them that I could play,” Ryan quipped.
Ryan was pleased with the timing of the deal.
“I’m very excited and thankful to the Falcons organization,” Ryan said. “For having been here for 10 years and really feeling great about my experience here the last 10 years. I think we’ve done some really good things. I’m excited about what is in front of us for the next six (years) and beyond that.”
Ryan was selected with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft out of Boston College. He was an immediate success as he guided the Falcons to a 11-5 mark and the playoffs as a rookie.
The Falcons were trying to put the Michael Vick era in the past after he was sent to federal prison on charges related to dog fighting.
“It was a different organization at the time,” Ryan said. “A different head coach in Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey was our coordinator. (There’s) been a lot of turnover since then, but I felt like, at that time, we had really good people in really good places and that was the case.”
In his second season, he led the Falcons to their first back-to-back winning seasons.
“I was really fortunate to come into a good situation and be surrounded by great people which has allowed me to play at a high level and be competitive with the teams that we’ve had for a long time, which has been great,” Ryan said. “I always felt like for me, it was important to put down roots and be a part of an organization for a long time. That was my hope when I got drafted here, that I could play at a high level.”
Ryan would go on to be named to four Pro Bowls. He’s guided the Falcons to the playoffs six times and to Super Bowl LI, when the team had a 28-3 lead before collapsing and losing to the Patriots in overtime.
Ryan said winning a Super Bowl for the franchise and the city motivates him.
“(Winning a Super Bowl) is important to me,” Ryan said. “I feel like I’m a part of this community and have been embraced by the community.”
The Falcons were founded in 1966 and have never won the Super Bowl, but have reached the league’s championship game twice.
Blank wanted to take care of Matt Ryan, but didn’t want to be in a position where the team was not able to keep players in the future.
“Matt has earned this extension, and I fully recognize the value of having a franchise quarterback in this league,” Blank said. “Since we drafted him in 2008, he’s been everything we hoped he would be.”
The quarterback market shifted upward over the offseason with other deals around the league. The Falcons ended up with market-value deal for Ryan. Blank didn’t seem to mind.
“He is an elite quarterback, leader and teammate who exemplifies our core values and represents our franchise on and off the field in a way that makes me very proud,” Blank said.
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. Beasley, who recently had his fifth-year option picked up, and Jarrett are next in line for contract extensions.
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 (million) 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 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,” said Andrew Brandt, who’s the director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for Sport Law at Villanova and former executive with the Packers. “So, now 17 years later, it’s $30 million 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 Corry.
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.
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
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 appeared truly grateful for the contract extension.
“I’m going to do everything that I can to try and help this city and this organization win a championship,” Ryan said. “That’s been my mindset since I was drafted here in 2008. I’ve been working hard at it for 10 years and I’m going to continue to work at as long as I play here.”
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