The Falcons have activated their quarterback succession plan

To exploreBradley: Falcons’ interest in Watson shows they’re looking beyond Ryan

However, Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussed the possibility of a quarterback succession plan with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during Super Bowl week. General manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith were evasive when asked about Ryan at the NFL Reaper.

The Falcons, who currently hold the eighth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, dropped quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones in last year’s draft.

Ryan is expected to turn 37 in May and has two years left on his contract. Ryan’s current salary caps are $48.6 million for 2022 and $43.6 million for 2023. The team has been working on a restructured deal, but hasn’t filed it with the league.

Interest in Watson intensified after a Harris County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges over allegations of sexual harassment. He still faces allegations in 22 civil lawsuits.

“Our fans should be looking for a succession plan,” Blank said during Super Bowl week. “And I think it’s not inappropriate. It doesn’t show a lack of confidence in Matt, but, you know, I mean, Father Time will affect us all.

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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs for a first down as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (70) reaches to tackle him during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, December 27, 2020 in Houston. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Credit: AP

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs for a first down as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (70) reaches to tackle him during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, December 27, 2020 in Houston.  (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Credit: AP

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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs for a first down as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (70) reaches to tackle him during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, December 27, 2020 in Houston. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Falcons had the fourth overall pick last season. Quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance finished first, second and third overall before the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts.

“It’s just the way it works,” Blank said. “(The) human body is not designed to live to be 150. So Matt has given us a great 14 years since 2008. He’s still playing at a very high level. … I think that’s a honor for Matt and Coach Smith that they work so well together.

Ryan, despite being sacked more than 40 or more times over the past four seasons, wants to keep playing. He has stated in the past that he wants to play in his 40s.

The Falcons could have their pick in the quarterback class with the eighth overall pick. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, who arrived late in his career, was considered the best quarterback in the draft class entering the combine. Matt Corral of Mississippi, Malik Willis of Liberty (Roswell and Westlake High), Sam Howell of North Carolina and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati are considered among the top five quarterback prospects.

Ryan and Smith, calling his own games, mixed well last season as the Falcons outshot and finished 7-10 despite poor blocking and a lack of offensive weaponry.

“I think he was able to put Coach Smith’s offensive system in place,” Blank said. “Matt did really well. So, you know, I think we’ll continue to assess that and continue to look at it.

“Matt looks at it from his perspective of his health and his family. We’re looking at it as well as we have an obligation to the franchise and to our fans to make sure we have a smooth transition from Matt Ryan to the next great quarterback.

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) walks off the field after their 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) walks off the field after their 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Atlanta.  JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) walks off the field after their 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Watson met the Falcons on Wednesday. Saints leaders met with Watson for the second time on Wednesday night, with owner Gayle Benson included, sources told The Times-Picayune on Thursday. Nick Underhill of New Orleans. Football first reported the news.

Watson met the Panthers and Browns on Monday.

The Saints made several salary cap moves Thursday morning, restructuring the contracts of linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Bradley Roby, quarterback Taysom Hill and safety Malcolm Jenkins. Those moves gave the Saints about $30 million in salary cap space.

Watson hasn’t played since 2020. He sat out last season due to legal issues.

From 2017 to 2020, Watson, who guided Clemson to a national championship, passed for 14,539 yards, 104 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract on September 5, 2020.

“We are looking for succession plans at every position,” Fontenot told the combine when asked about Ryan. “We have to add to the list in every position. And where you can get in trouble is if you reach out and feel hopeless in certain areas…. but we are not going to do that, and yet, we are going to evaluate. We must…

“We actually had formal interviews with several quarterbacks (at the combine), and there is a good group in this draft. There are different flavors. We will evaluate these players and, when appropriate, we will add to this position. But I think you can get in trouble if you reach and you don’t feel good about what you’re doing.

He was asked if Ryan was the Falcons quarterback for 2022.

“I won’t say anything about specific players or any…because if I answer that question, we can go through the whole list and talk about who they are,” Fontenot said. “But I would say we’re going to be looking to add to every position and try to improve that roster.”

Ryan never publicly asked to be traded. He maintains excellent relations with the administration.

“Matt, he’s a great professional,” Fontenot said. “He comes and works every day and does everything he can to help the team win. So I would say that’s probably a question for Matt, in particular, but from my point of view, from my point of view, I really appreciate Matt and what he’s been in terms of a leader, in terms of (being a) hardworking (and) in terms of being a professional, everything he’s done here in Atlanta. that from my point of view, from my point of view, it has been excellent. I am grateful to you for that.”

Smith was also asked about Ryan and his longevity.

“I understand there’s only one Tom Brady, but (Ryan) certainly feels good where he is,” Smith said. “We expect Matt to be part of the team, but you know, I think you never back down in a corner. So if someone makes you an offer, you can’t refuse. …I think Matt knows how we feel about him. I think Matt still has a lot of good football. »

Smith was asked about getting an offer for Ryan.

“It depends on the offer,” Smith said. “Like I said, it’s like the old Don Corleone, the offer you can’t refuse. I think you have to take it. But that’s with everything. I’m sure anyone you know, you can ask Terry if anyone wants to give me a bag of balls, they can kick me out.

Ryan, who was a consummate professional during his time with the Falcons, remained quiet during the process.

With a weak cast, Ryan had his worst season since the start of his career last season. He completed 375 of 560 attempts (67%) for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He had a 90.4 passer rating, which was his lowest since 91 in 2010. He also threw 20 touchdown passes in 2017. The only season he threw less than 20 was his rookie season in 2008. Ryan’s 6.16 net yards gained per attempted pass was the second-lowest of his career. His 6.01 in his second season was the lowest.

Ryan’s protection was shaky and he was without top receiver Calvin Ridley for most of the season. He was sacked 40 times for the fourth straight season. He was pressed 48 times and reached an NFL-high 84 times.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea (50) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea (50) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea (50) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The numbers were atrocious, as Ryan had an average time in the pocket of 2.4 seconds from slamming to throwing the ball or when the pressure caused the pocket to collapse.

Ryan had the longest 300-yard passing drought of his career. He hasn’t had 300 passing yards in the last nine games.

Josh Rosen opened the season as a backup quarterback after AJ McCarron was injured in the exhibition season. Feleipe Franks finished the season as a substitute.

Ryan, who was drafted third overall in 2008, was an immediate starter for the Falcons. He helped guide the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie. He led the Falcons to the playoffs in four of his first six seasons in the league.

The Falcons went to the NFC title game after the 2012 season, but lost a lead and lost to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers. After two lost seasons, former coach Mike Smith was fired.

Under head coach Dan Quinn, in his second season under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl and was named league MVP. The Falcons went to the playoffs the following season, but have since fallen on hard times.

In 14 seasons, Ryan completed 5,242 of 8,003 pass attempts for 59,735 yards and 367 touchdowns. All franchise records. He also holds franchise records for career passer rating (94.2), career completion percentage (65.5%), and career 300-yard passing games (73).

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