When Joe Flacco signed his monstrous, NFL-record deal last week, the reverberations shook the foundations of quite a few teams who just realized it's going to cost them a lot more to keep their franchise QBs. Chief among those: the Atlanta Falcons, whose prized playcaller Matt Ryan came from the same draft as Flacco. Ryan's current six-year, $120.6 million deal expires at the end of the 2013 season, and if Atlanta's going to keep Ryan in black, it'll have to pay. Big.
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, Ryan and Flacco have run similar, though not exactly parallel, paths through the NFL since the 2008 draft. Ryan is 56-22 in the regular season, while Flacco is a near-mirror-image 54-26.
However, the make-or-break postseason is where their paths differ. Both players have lost four times, but Flacco has won nine games (including a little tilt last month in New Orleans) while Ryan has won only one. Should Ryan get the Falcons over the playoff hump this year, he'd likely earn a nice little Flaccoesque momentum paycheck, which is one reason why it's in the Falcons' best interests to get a deal done as soon as possible.
There's no question of not getting a deal done, of course. Ryan is the centerpiece of the Falcons franchise, and both fans and team brass have embraced him as the team's future. “He’s our franchise guy that we’re very proud of, on and off the field,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told the AJC. “Matt’s what we’ve been looking for in a quarterback.”
Ryan is now in the final year of his six-year, $72 million initial contract. Of that total, $34.75 million was guaranteed. Flacco's $20.1 million annual deal for six seasons is now the likely starting point for negotiations. The AJC quoted analysts saying that Ryan could command a $126-$138 million, six-year deal.
The Falcons are no strangers to the big-time quarterback payout; nine years ago, owner Arthur Blank inked Michael Vick to a 10-year, $130 million contract. Falcons fans can hope that this contract turns out a little better than that one did.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-