The Falcons move to strange new worlds after dealing with Matt Ryan

ATLANTA (AP) — For the first time since 2008, the Atlanta Falcons will break into a new quarterback.

That’s hardly his only concern after Matt Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts.

While general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith shy away from the term “rebuilding”, it is clear that the team faces some very serious challenges in the short term.

Namely, a staggering hit to their salary cap flexibility with some $62 million in dead money.

Both insist that even after 2022 it will all be worth it.

“We’re taking it on the chin this year,” Fontenot said on Wednesday. “But where it leaves us next year is important.”

Beyond their salary cap woes, the Falcons have some serious public relations work.

Already facing a sluggish fan base after four consecutive losing seasons, they are now dealing with the notion that Ryan’s departure was due to an unsuccessful search for quarterback Deshan Watson.

Alleging sexual misconduct by nearly two dozen women, Watson sat out with the Houston Texans last season, but was recently cleared of any criminal convictions.

Even though he still faces a plethora of civil cases, the Falcons were among at least four teams that met Watson in hopes of agreeing a trade to the Texans.

It appeared that the Falcons were among the two finalists alongside rival New Orleans Saints, until Watson had a change of heart and a fully guaranteed, $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns was struck.

After their public discovery of Watson falling apart – and it’s still unclear how they could afford it when Ryan’s contract was so burdensome – the Falcons have no choice but to make a hasty deal for Ryan. Was.

Fontenot and Smith would not go into more detail about their talks with Atlanta’s Watson, nor would they acknowledge any pressure from owner Arthur Blank to bring in a player who would become the tens of thousands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. Vacant seats can be filled. ,

“We took a collective decision to find out,” Fontenot said.

Added Smith, “Matt and I had many conversations. Obviously, we have changed a lot here. Matt understood that the quarterback might have a succession plan in place for us because of where we are and where he is in his career.

Fontenot admitted that the Falcons didn’t get top value for the former MVP, who has scored the eighth-most yards in NFL history and missed only three games in his 14-year career.

The Colts were able to acquire Ryan, who turns 37 in May, only for a third-round draft pick because, as Fontenot put it, the Falcons did not want to put Ryan through protracted trade talks or give him this. Didn’t want to say where it was disposed of.

“It was more important for us to do right by Matt than try to maximize compensation,” Fontenot said, adding that Ryan didn’t have a no-trade clause. “Yeah, we probably could have opened it up to every team and traded Matt somewhere he didn’t want to be and get more compensation.”

After dealing with Ryan on Monday, the Falcons quickly agreed to a contract with his apparent successor, Marcus Mariota.

2 overall pick in 2015, Mariota failed to keep his starting job with the Titans and backed Derek Carr over the past two years with the Raiders.

But Mariota is only 28 years old and will have a chance to revive his career with Smith, his former offensive coordinator in Tennessee.

“There’s been a lot of growth from him and myself,” Smith said. “He’s going to come here and give us everything he’s got. He’s a high-end talent.”

Ryan’s long-term successor could come through in the draft. Although it’s not considered a banner year for a quarterback, the Falcons may find someone with the No. 8 overall pick to their liking.

Fontenot said the team has representatives in pro camps this week, including Malik Willis of Liberty, Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh, Matt Coral in Mississippi and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati.

“If we think any pick has a great quarterback, we’ll take the quarterback,” Fontenot said. “If we don’t, we won’t reach something we’re not excited about.”

Ryan’s trade, along with last summer’s deal, which sent star receiver Julio Jones to the Titans and the release of free-agent bust Dante Fowler Jr., have left the Falcons with far more deadcap space than any other team.

But Smith insists they can still field a quality product.

“I don’t like the ‘rebuild’ tag,” said the second-year coach. “Our charge is to go out and compete and play better team football than we did last year. We’re going to compete now – and build for the future.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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