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Matt Ryan’s contract details, salary cap impact, and bonuses

Matt Ryan's contract is much discussed in terms of value, but what is his salary cap impact for the Falcons during the remainder of his deal?

After 13 seasons in the NFL, Matt Ryan’s contract is in sharp focus as the debate around the future of the Atlanta Falcons continues. What is the situation with Ryan’s contract and its impact on the Falcons’ salary cap in 2021, and what are their options if they want to move on?

Matt Ryan’s contract details and bonuses

Ryan’s contract is one of the most convoluted in the NFL due to the multiple restructures. He originally signed a five-year extension in May 2018. That extension had a total value of $150 million, $94.5 million of which was fully guaranteed at signing.

Those guarantees covered his $46.5 million signing bonus, as well as his salaries in 2018, 2019, and 2020. His $10 million option bonus was also fully guaranteed when the contract was signed. Another $5.5 million in salary in 2021 became guaranteed on March 15, 2019. His $46.5 million signing bonus prorated across five years at $9.3 million per year. The $10 million option bonus prorated across the contract at $2 million per year.

Matt Ryan’s latest contract has been restructured multiple times

The contract signed by the Falcons and Ryan had plenty of intricacies when it was signed. It has become further complicated with the multiple restructures. Prior to the 2019 season, Atlanta restructured it for the first time less than a year after Ryan signed it. ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Atlanta converted $8.75 million in 2019 base salary to a signing bonus. That bonus prorated across the next five years at $1.75 million per year.

Just a handful of months later, at the end of the 2019 season, the Falcons restructured Ryan’s contract again, per Yates. The Falcons converted $12 million of his 2020 base salary into a signing bonus. Atlanta then went a step further during the offseason. The second restructuring that offseason saw the Falcons reduce Ryan’s salary to $1.05 million.

The outcome of that restructure was another $4.9 million in prorated salary cap charged across the final four seasons of the deal. Entering the 2020 NFL season, the Falcons had $9.3 million per year in prorated signing bonus, $2 million per year in prorated option bonus, and $6.6 million per year in prorated restructure payments for Ryan.

All told, Ryan had a cap number of $18.96 million in 2020. With just a base salary of $1.05 million, the remaining $17.91 million was in prorated bonus from the signing bonus and the restructures.

Ryan’s contract restructured again ahead of the 2021 season

Leading into the 2021 NFL offseason, the Falcons restructured Ryan’s contract for a fourth time in three years. This time, they converted $21 million in base salary to a signing bonus.

Due to that fourth restructuring of Ryan’s contract, each of the remaining three years of his contract carried an additional $7 million in prorated bonus. That is a total of $13.6 million in prorated restructure payments, plus the $11.3 million in prorated signing bonus and option bonus. Overall, the Falcons carry $24.9 million in prorated money on the 2021 and 2022 salary caps with Ryan’s contract. That drops to $15.61 million in 2023.

When Ryan signed his extension ahead of the 2018 season, he had one more year remaining on his previous deal. Therefore, Ryan’s current contract keeps him with the team through the end of the 2023 season. That leaves two more full NFL seasons after this one remaining on Ryan’s contract heading into the second half of the 2021 season.

How does Ryan’s contract affect the Falcons’ salary cap?

To summate all of the information above, Ryan will count for $26.9 million against the Falcons’ salary cap in 2021. He has $2 million in salary and $24.9 million in prorated payments. That number is set to rise to a mind-boggling $48.7 million in 2022. The $24.9 million in prorated bonus money remains the same, but Ryan also has a $7.5 million roster bonus due on March 11, 2022 (as well as $16.3 million in salary).

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The final year of Ryan’s contract is slightly different as his signing bonus proration finishes in 2022. There is still $15.6 million in prorated bonuses from the option bonus and the restructures. Ryan’s contract has $20.5 million in base salary and a $7.5 million roster bonus due on March 10, 2023.

What options do the Falcons have with Ryan’s contract?

After an offseason with speculation around Ryan’s future, the fourth restructure somewhat doubled down on his future with Atlanta, at least in 2021. It made it virtually impossible for the Falcons to release Ryan without incurring a dead money charge of $67.44 million.

There are options for the Falcons to move on from Ryan in each of the next two offseasons. Doing so in the 2022 offseason would leave $40.53 million in dead money. That would be a savings of $8.14 million in salary cap space.

Atlanta could mitigate that in the 2022 season by designating Ryan as a post-June 1 release. That would leave $24.91 million in dead money in 2022 and constitute a $23.75 million saving in 2022. However, there would be a further $15.61 million in dead money in 2023 if the Falcons go down this route.

If the Falcons were to keep Ryan through the 2022 season, there is another financially viable option to move on from him ahead of 2023. Releasing Ryan after the 2022 NFL season would see the Falcons carry a dead money charge of $15.6 million. However, they have to make that decision before the roster bonus is due on March 10.

Could the Falcons trade Ryan and his contract?

At 36, Ryan is still very much a viable starting quarterback. There will almost certainly be interest if he were to be available on the trade market. With that said, the same financial complications apply.

The timing is also crucial. If the Falcons trade Ryan before March 10, the acquiring team would be on the hook for the $7.5 million roster bonus in 2022 and 2023. His base salary is just $16.25 million in 2022 and $20.25 million in 2023. Even with the $15 million in combined roster bonuses, that is still good value for a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Obtaining a potential starting quarterback for two years with a total cost of $51.75 million is good value, even at 37 years old. While a team will likely not pay a premium to acquire Ryan, it could be a way for the Falcons to recoup some value instead of releasing Ryan and his contract this upcoming offseason.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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