Falcons, QB Ryan agree to reported $103M extension
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Even when it came down to a $100 million contract extension, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan lived up to his nickname of 'Matty Ice.'
The unflappable Ryan, who agreed on Thursday — the first day of Falcons' training camp — to an extension of five years and reportedly worth $103.75 million, with $59 million guaranteed over the first three years, said he never worried the negotiations would become a problem.
As usual, he was vindicated.
"I've always not worried about the business side of it," said Ryan, 28, about to enter his sixth NFL season. "I really think as a player that if you’re hung up or you're worried about that, or you spend your time thinking about all of those things, you're taking away from what you should be doing."
Falcons owner Arthur Blank recalled a dinner he and team officials had with Ryan before drafting the future Pro Bowler in 2008.
(Blank referenced "turns" the organization had taken — a vague reference to the tumultuous 2007 when quarterback Michael Vick was jailed on federal dogfighting charges and head coach Bobby Petrino quit before the season ended to take the job at Arkansas.)
Even then, the Falcons owner said Ryan showed a "poise and intelligence and sense of himself" that impressed Blank, a billionaire who made his fortune as a co-founder of The Home Depot.
Blank cited Ryan’s record of 56-22, the best of any quarterback in league history over his first five seasons, as a primary reason for making Ryan one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.
He then quipped that perhaps Ryan could become an investor in the Falcons' new downtown stadium — one that will replace the Georgia Dome in 2017 — and buy the naming rights for the new complex.
The guaranteed portion of Ryan's deal ranks second in the league, behind Saints quarterback Drew Brees ($60.5 million). It exceeds that of Peyton Manning ($58 million), though Ryan has yet to win the Super Bowl. Ryan’s deal averages $20.75 million over the next three seasons.
After leading the Falcons to within 10 yards of a Super Bowl berth in last year's NFC title game against the 49ers, the Falcons believe Ryan can take them all the way in the very-near future.
"Matt is the type of leader you want to have," head coach Mike Smith said. "I say it all the time: You win in the locker room first. You've got to have guys like Matt Ryan who have drive and passion to be best they can be; and that’s probably the best trait Matt has."
Ryan was asked if the new deal would place more pressure on him to deliver. But he dismissed the notion, saying that "getting rings" has always been the goal.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff was somewhat ambiguous when asked about the salary cap implications of the deal for the 2013 season, and as to whether it would allow the Falcons to add to the existing roster. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour, with whom the Falcons have held contract talks, remains available.
"I think, without getting into the minutiae of the deal, we've said all along we’ll be creative with this contract in order for it to make sure it keeps our roster fluid and gives us the opportunity and allows us when need be to step up and make moves,” Dimitroff said.
"Sometimes, unfortunately, in a season for emergencies to replace injured players or whatever it may be. We feel we've done a very good job ... as far as creativity and language and the approach to this contract. We came together with some really good, solid ideas to keep the door open as far as the roster and contracts being fluid."
On Thursday, both Blank and Dimitroff mused about how when the Falcons held the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, some speculated they should take defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey out of LSU.
"I think Thomas and Smitty and the organization obviously made a brilliant decision," Blank said.
A Super Bowl victory will make them look even more clairvoyant.