Ryan contract stalemate puts Falcons in limbo

ATLANTA — For months, it seems, the Falcons have tip-toed around the issue of a contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan.

Back in March, following the Falcons’ big spending spree on Tony Gonzalez, William Moore, Sam Baker, Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, there was a sense that Ryan was next.

Even before that, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens awarded quarterback Joe Flacco, who was selected in the first round in 2008, just like Ryan, a new contract for $120 million over six years. That seemingly paved the way for Ryan to get his deal done.

And yet, nothing.

Lately, any time a high-ranking Falcons official comes out of hibernation to discuss a different issue, the topic of Ryan’s contract inevitably arises. It is likely to remain that way until a deal gets done for the franchise quarterback, as the issue lingers over other important business for the franchise.

On Tuesday, when owner Arthur Blank attended owners meetings in Boston and spoke to the media about the NFL giving the Falcons $200 million for their proposed new stadium, the NFL Network’s Albert Breer asked about Ryan’s contract talks.

Breer tweeted that Blank told him the team and Ryan are in a “good place” but had no timetable. Blank also said he would like to have a deal done in the “not too distant future.”

On a follow-up question as to whether Blank would like to complete a deal before training camp, the owner said he would like to finish the deal “as soon as possible” — the comment that gained the most publicity — which is sort of like asking my 8-year-old daughter if she would prefer to have dessert before dinner.

Last Friday, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff participated in National Bike to Work Day, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked him about the status of Ryan’s negotiations, as well.

“We all know that Matt is going to be here for a long time,” Dimitroff said. “We’re going to be diligent and creative with how we put together our package when the time is right. Nothing new on the timing, but suffice it to say, we will have things taken care of, again, when the time is right.”

Notice the phrase when the time is right. Apparently, it’s not right yet or it would have been done already.

The fact that Dimitroff also talked about the need to be diligent and creative also speaks to the notion that negotiations have bogged down. The templates are pretty much there. There’s Flacco’s deal and there’s Drew Brees’ five-year, $100-million deal with the Saints.

In all likelihood, Ryan wants to be paid like those Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and the Falcons think he should be paid at a lower rate.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the Falcons are starting to bump up against the salary cap again. The AJC reported that before signing fourth-round pick Levine Toilolo on Tuesday, the team had $2.01 million left in cap room. They still have yet to sign first- and second-round picks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, both cornerbacks whom the team very much will need in the lineup once games start (not to mention the start for training camp).

After that, the Falcons will be out of cap room or will have to cut another veteran player to make room, all of which underscores the urgency of getting Ryan’s deal done in a way that creates more cap space.

That dilemma leads to both urgency and need for a cap-friendly contract on the Falcons’ side but also leverage on Ryan’s end. And that sort of explains the current stalemate.

Who will compromise first in order to strike a deal? We may know once the contract is signed — whenever that is.