The Falcons were heavily questioned this offseason after a slew of confusing decisions. Capped out and left with a defensive unit with few long-term contributors, Atlanta looked primed for a rebuilding effort under new head coach Arthur Smith.
No one would've blamed the embattled franchise for hitting the restart button with the No. 4 overall pick and a slew of picks from trading Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
Instead, the Falcons landed in an awkward middle ground. They passed on Justin Fields at No. 4 and waited until after the draft to trade Jones. Now at 1-3 and possessing the 25th-ranked offense and dead-last defense, the Falcons need to reassess their plans for the 2021 season.
Trading Ryan now would certainly not be easy for a number of reasons, but the Falcons must explore the possibility. They may have cost themselves at least one first-round pick by waiting until now instead of this past offseason.
Nevertheless, there are three teams that should consider trading for Ryan and his $16 million prorated 2021 salary. Time limitations aside, Ryan could provide an instant spark for each of these three teams this year and beyond. Giving up a first-round pick in 2022 could be a small cost compared to what Carson Wentz fetched this past offseason when he was traded to the Colts.
Here are the three teams that should entertain a trade for Matty Ice.
3. Denver Broncos
Even as someone who is as big of a Teddy Bridgewater advocate as possible, the Denver Broncos have a capped ceiling on their potential with him at the helm. Now dealing with concussion concerns, Bridgewater's injury could doom the Broncos to another blown season despite a strong roster. Acquiring the durable and consistent Falcons passer could change their fate.
Granted, the Broncos are not-so-quietly hoping to land Aaron Rodgers next year. In fact, many league insiders I have talked to have them as the favorite to make a massive trade for Rodgers if he continues to want out of Green Bay. However, they will have to wait until the offseason, and a lot can change in that time.
Ryan brings no such risk and would fit in Denver seamlessly. The days of wasting away Von Miller and other talented veterans would be long gone. Trading at least a first-round pick along with Drew Lock would be a small price to pay for instant contention.
2. Washington Football Team
The other obvious fit right away is Washington. They have almost no pathway to a franchise quarterback right now, barring a rookie coming in 2022 and shocking everyone. Maybe Malik Willis is their savior, but counting on him developing and even being available to Washington is a longshot.
Washington can easily make the cap space to accommodate Ryan's salary for this year and beyond. They have a full menu of assets they can part with if the quarterback position has an answer for the next few seasons. Ryan would be the most consistent passer Rivera has ever coached.
There are plenty of playmakers in Washington's offense to give them a Super Bowl-worthy unit. The defense has been massively disappointing, though, and the franchise would need supreme faith their back-seven issues could be answered mid-season before trading for Ryan.
Either way, Ryan would be an instant upgrade for Washington.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
On the surface, trading for Matt Ryan with Ben Roethlisberger still on the roster seems utterly insane. It won't happen, but the Steelers should absolutely consider the move. Roethlisberger has been a liability to the team and is costing them a year to compete for the playoffs.
Roethlisberger ranks 12th among quarterbacks with more than two starts in bad throw percentage, and only 19th in total accuracy. Ryan has been moderately better in an offense that has less of a rushing attack and no defense to support him. It's reasonable to believe Ryan would considerably increase the floor and ceiling of the currently bad Steelers' offense.
Would things be awkward in the meantime? Absolutely, but the Steelers might as well start planning their rebuild without a bold move like this in the cards. Whether that happens now or next offseason, the outcome will be the same.
Something needs to change in Pittsburgh.
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