Falcons trade Matt Ryan to Colts, sign Marcus Mariota

·3 min read

Just days after the Freddie Freeman era ended in Atlanta, the Matt Ryan epoch has come to a close as well ... and for Falcons, the time of Marcus Mariota begins.

The Falcons have traded their longtime franchise cornerstone to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 third-round draft pick. The trade frees up some salary cap space in 2022 and much more in 2023, although Ryan will remain a significant dead-cap hit on Atlanta this season.

Atlanta selected Ryan with the third pick of the 2008 draft, with the intent of rehabilitating the franchise’s image in the wake of the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. Ryan started for the Falcons from the first day of his rookie season in 2008, and would miss only three games over 14 seasons.

He won NFL offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008, then followed that up by winning the NFL MVP in 2016. That season, Ryan led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, and led the Patriots 28-3 in the third quarter in what was arguably the franchise’s last great moment. With Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones as targets, Ryan was one of the league’s perpetually reliable passers, even if the Falcons as a whole rarely matched his skills.

Matt Ryan's time in Atlanta is over, as the Falcons are trading him to the Colts for a third-round pick. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Matt Ryan's time in Atlanta is over, as the Falcons are trading him to the Colts for a third-round pick. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta is on a run of four straight losing seasons, but Ryan has held up his end of the bargain, throwing a league-leading number of completions in 2019 and 2020 while being sacked over 40 times each year. The Falcons reached the playoffs in six of Ryan’s 14 seasons in Atlanta.

Ryan joins a Colts team that came within one win of making the playoffs last season, and many observers blamed the performance of now-departed quarterback Carson Wentz for the team's failure. The Colts' odds to win the Super Bowl jumped from +3000 to +2500, per BetMGM.

Falcons sign Marcus Mariota after trading Matt Ryan

Shortly after the news of the Ryan deal broke, the Falcons announced that they had signed his replacement: former No. 2 overall draft pick Marcus Mariota.

Atlanta signed Mariota to a two-year deal, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it's for $18.75 million. Mariota is extensively familiar with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith from when the two worked together in Tennessee. Mariota played for the Titans from 2015 through 2019. The Titans then pivoted to Ryan Tannehill, and Mariota signed with the Raiders. He spent the last two years with Las Vegas serving as Derek Carr's backup.

Whether Mariota ends up as Atlanta's long-term quarterback remains to be seen. The Falcons have the No. 8 pick in a draft not particularly top-heavy in quarterbacks, and the team has needs all over the field. At the moment, Feleipe Franks is the only other quarterback under contract in Atlanta.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.