Offloading Ryan would bring the Falcons some cap relief. Without landing a Watson in trade – not many quarterbacks of such eminence get traded – this team minus Ryan would be the NFC South’s worst. As is, they might be the second-best. There’s a reason every team in the division that didn’t have Tom Brady sought Watson.
There wasn’t much of a Watson market until a Houston grand jury brought no indictments. Then there was. There might even have been a moment when the Falcons thought they would prevail. (He came here to meet with them; other suitors went to Houston.) Then Cleveland met his soaring price – the Browns will pay him $230 million over five seasons and sent three Round 1 picks to the Texans – and now the Falcons’ overture appears poorly reasoned and badly executed.
Given that the grand jury didn’t press charges; given that the Falcons need a quarterback beyond Ryan; given that Watson is 26 and a three-time Pro Bowler who grew up in the shadow of Flowery Branch … given all the above, could the club have just said, “Sorry, not interested”?
Answer: Yes, it could. The Falcons made the considered decision that Watson would be worth the resulting criticism. Not saying that’s right. It is, however, how pro sports tend to work. The NFL is apt to suspend him – it said Friday its investigation into “serious allegations” is “active” – but he figures to play again soon, if not in September 2022.
From Arthur Blank last month: “Our fans should look for a succession plan. I think that’s not improper. It doesn’t show a lack of confidence in Matt, but Father Time will get to all of us.”
The Falcons have no succession plan. With Watson, they’d have had Ryan’s successor – no years of grooming necessary. With quarterbacks, though, there’s seldom a seamless transition. Joe Montana wasn’t crazy about Steve Young. Brady sulked because Bill Belichick liked Jimmy Garoppolo. Aaron Rodgers threw a fit when the Packers drafted Jordan Love.
You either have your QB of the future or you don’t. The Falcons just told us they don’t. It might be better for all concerned if they parted ways now.