INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Ryan has estimated he’ll be quarterbacking for one of only two teams next season: the Atlanta Falcons or the Indianapolis Colts.
His desire to play for a different team for the first time in his 14-year NFL career came last weekend after a Zoom call with Colts general manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich, coordinator offensive Marcus Brady and assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier. The Falcons traded the 36-year-old Ryan to the Colts on Monday for a third-round pick in this year’s draft.
“Their passion, their commitment, their professionalism, the responsibility Chris has for himself and what he does, the empathy Frank has for my situation of understanding being in a certain place and doing it in a meaning,” Ryan said Tuesday during his introduction. press conference as the Colts’ new starting quarterback. “I just knew the roster they had and the belief in their way of doing things, the time was right for me. I knew it was time to go in a different direction.”
Ryan had no idea where he would be playing next season last week. That’s because the Falcons were one of the teams considering a trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson, which would have certainly ended Ryan’s time in Atlanta. Ryan and the Falcons pushed back his owed $7.5 million bonus until Monday while they wait for Watson to make a decision on his future. Watson ultimately waived his no-trade clause to go to the Cleveland Browns, which meant the Falcons had to decide what to do with Ryan.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind week for me,” Ryan said. “This time last week, we didn’t know how it was going to be. … I was lucky to never have experienced a transaction or roster change, which is common and everyday for the majority of le locker room. … From the time it started last week until we were sitting here today, I thought everyone was handling everything in a professional manner. I didn’t like everything that I have heard, but you don’t always like what you hear sometimes.
The Falcons and Colts began trade talks on Friday, a source said, before Ryan met with members of the Colts coaching staff on Saturday. The quarterback walked out of the meeting feeling like it was time for a change. Ryan threw for 59,775 yards and 367 touchdowns during his career with the Falcons, who also named him the NFL MVP in 2016.
“I also come from a place where I was really, really lucky to have been for 14 years and I want to start by thanking everyone in the Falcons organization, starting with [owner] Arthur Blank,” Ryan said. “It’s definitely bittersweet. I really appreciate the time I spent there. It’s sad to see it end, but I can’t wait to see what can happen here. What is this team and this organization? It’s a very exciting day for me and my family.”
Ryan highlighted some of the best quarterbacks to play for the Colts, including Johnny Unitas, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Ryan will be the Colts’ sixth different starting quarterback in Week 1 in as many years next season.
The Colts are hoping that Ryan will not only be the next great quarterback to play for them, but also give them at least two years to find his replacement at some point. The Colts have restructured the final two years of Ryan’s contract, with the remaining $53.9 million guaranteed in some form, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
“I said it from the start, I would like to play as long as possible, I feel really good,” Ryan said. “My body feels really good. I still feel like I can play at as high a level as ever, as long as it lasts; nobody has a crystal ball to know exactly how long it’s going to last. “
Ryan mentioned how Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford left the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions, respectively, and won the Super Bowl with their new teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams) in their first seasons there. For the Colts to even start thinking about being a Super Bowl contender, they need to add more pieces on offense. Receiver, tight end and left tackle are high on the list of needs. The Colts have only made the playoffs twice since 2014.
“I understand that I’m part of this wheel and I have to make my weight and do my job very well,” Ryan said. “It’s a pretty solid wheel that was built [in Indianapolis]. That’s why I have to be a great teammate, do my best, whatever I have to do to help the guys. … I’m so excited to get to work and get out there with these guys and try to do my part to help this team win as many games as possible.”