Fill in the blank: If Matt Ryan is worth $30 million a year, Aaron Rodgers is worth …. ?
We’ll probably find out soon. In news that will resonate in Green Bay as much as it will in Atlanta, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan agreed to a five-year extension worth $30 million a season with $100 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Ryan is the first player in NFL history to get a contract worth $30 million per season.
That contract comes as the Green Bay Packers work on an extension for Rodgers, a two-time MVP who is universally regarded as a better quarterback than Ryan and perhaps the best in the NFL.
Is Ryan worth $30 million a year?
Worth is always relative. A player is worth what a team is willing to give him. That answer might differ from whether it makes financial sense for the Falcons to invest in Ryan.
Ryan has been a very good quarterback for most of his career, and a great quarterback in 2016 when he won MVP. That was an outlier season for him, but he’s not incapable of playing at that level again. A five-year extension when Ryan will turn 33 years old on May 17 is a little troubling, but Ryan should be a high-level quarterback for at least a few more years.
As quarterback contracts exploded even further with Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins resetting the bar this offseason, Ryan was bound to get an eye-popping deal. It’s not like the Falcons could afford to lose him.
What does this mean for Rodgers?
The Packers couldn’t have enjoyed the news of Matt Ryan’s deal. The team has been trying to get something done with Aaron Rodgers, who has reportedly not been so thrilled with the organization this offseason after some personnel and coaching moves. The Packers have said, and reiterated this week, that they are closing in on a deal with Rodgers, but Ryan’s deal has to at least provide both sides a new starting point.
Ryan is a good quarterback, but Rodgers is clearly the better one. One has to assume the Packers now can’t pay Rodgers less than $30 million a year with his extension, unless he’s happy to agree to a discount.
What does this deal mean elsewhere in the NFL?
There are clearly two economies in the league now: one for quarterbacks, and one for everyone else.
Among the top contracts in the NFL, on an average per-year basis, the top 17 are all quarterbacks, according to Spotrac. Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, for one, makes more per year than any non-quarterback in the NFL. This offseason, with Jimmy Garoppolo getting $27.5 million per year from the San Francisco 49ers, Kirk Cousins getting $28 million per year from the Minnesota Vikings and Matt Ryan bumping that up to $30 million per season, has widened the gap. Those three quarterbacks are good, but there are plenty of quarterbacks around the NFL who are considered much better. No position player in the NFL makes more than $20 million per season, and now Ryan is at $30 million per year.
There are plenty of teams around the NFL with young quarterbacks who will soon need new deals, such as Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to name just a few. Those teams have to be nervous about where the bar will be for quarterbacks when those negotiations start.
What does this deal mean for Ryan and the Falcons?
It probably means Matt Ryan can take his family on a nice vacation this summer. Football-wise, he’s going to be under even more pressure. Record deals always bring more scrutiny, especially for someone like Ryan who most fans don’t believe deserves to be the highest-paid player in NFL history. Matthew Stafford dealt with the weight of a record deal for a while (and handled it pretty well), and now Ryan will too.
The Falcons are a good team that nearly won a Super Bowl two seasons ago. They had a good draft and should feel like they’re contenders in 2018. They are coming off another playoff season that ended with a close loss at the Eagles, last season’s eventual champions. But the road gets harder with the more salary-cap space that must be allocated to a quarterback. The Falcons will find very quickly that they can’t keep all of their core together, due to Ryan’s massive deal. That’s life in the NFL.
The Falcons are clearly not better off without Ryan. But the irony of having a quarterback like him is it makes building a championship team around him very, very difficult.
Top five contracts, per year, in the NFL:
1. QB Matt Ryan (Falcons), $30 million
2. QB Kirk Cousins (Vikings), $28 million
3. QB Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), $27.5 million
4. QB Matthew Stafford (Lions), $27 million
T5. QB Drew Brees (Saints) and QB Derek Carr (Raiders), $25 million
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