The Deshaun Watson rumor mill continues to churn as the NFL heads into the waning moments of the legal tampering period. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Cleveland Browns met with or have serious interest in trading for Watson. Well, another NFC team has entered the foray. With the Atlanta Falcons showing interest in the Houston Texans QB, the rumors around Matt Ryan are sure to heat up quickly.
Latest Matt Ryan predictions and rumors
Over the past couple of weeks, the quarterback carousel has spun relatively quickly, with trades going down and deals being signed. Aaron Rodgers is returning to Green Bay, Tom Brady unretired a month after hanging it up, trades have sent the Seahawks and Colts in entirely new directions — and the new NFL league year hasn’t officially begun yet.
While the Falcons seems to be a late suitor in the Watson negotiations, the relationship between ownership and the Houston QB is intriguing. When Watson was the QB at Gainesville (GA) High School, he worked as a ball boy for Atlanta and built a relationship with Falcons owner Arthur Blank and his family.
Blank and the Falcons continue to voice support and commitment to Ryan as the starting QB for 2022. However, the front office also acknowledges that Atlanta needs to address life after Ryan as soon as possible. Given the lack of premiere QB talent in the 2022 NFL Draft, a move for Watson could set Atlanta up for the future — but what does that mean for Matty Ice?
Matt Ryan landing spots if Falcons add Deshaun Watson
On March 12, 2022, the Falcons restructured Ryan’s league-high cap hit of $48.7 million. The proposed plan converts $7.5 million of his base salary and 2022’s $7.5 million roster bonus into a signing bonus. The restructure spread the effects of his contract over a couple more years. His new cap hit becomes $36.7 million with a base salary of $8.75 million.
However, there’s just one issue — the transaction hasn’t officially been processed by the NFL. Should the Falcons make a move for Watson, there is no reason for them to hold onto Ryan. So what destinations would make sense for the 14-year veteran?
What if the Falcons and Texans just swapped signal-callers and called it a day? The hang-up with Houston lies in what they intend to do with second-year QB Davis Mills. If the Texans plan on starting Mills next season, trading one cap space monster for another isn’t a great idea. However, if Houston thinks Mills needs another year of development, acquiring the longtime veteran might be a worthwhile investment. This move also hinges on Ryan waiving his no-trade clause and ironing out some cap issues.
Let’s stay in the AFC for now, as teams try to avoid trades of this magnitude within the conference. On March 9, 2022, the Colts sent QB Carson Wentz and a 2022 second-round pick to the Washington Commanders for a second and third-round pick in 2022. Washington also sent an additional third-round pick in 2023. It becomes a second-round pick if Wentz plays more than 70% of the snaps for the Commanders this season.
This trade means that Indianapolis is looking for its fifth starting QB in as many seasons. While trading for Ryan wouldn’t address the long-term future, it would put the Colts in a much better place to succeed after their meltdown in the last two weeks of the 2021 season. The Colts currently have the most cap space available in the NFL, so Ryan’s contract wouldn’t be a hindrance. The question for Indianapolis would be whether they have assets they are willing to send in a trade for Ryan.
Personally, it seems out of the realm of possibility that Atlanta would even ponder trading Ryan within the division. Outside of Tampa Bay being notified of Tom Brady’s change of heart, the QB landscape of the NFC South is abysmal. This is evidenced by the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons attempting to make a move for Watson.
Should Atlanta prevail over the other two, they likely aren’t sending their 14-year veteran to an in-division rival. However, another NFC team just ended a run with their franchise QB. The Denver Broncos sent QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DL Shelby Harris, two first-round picks (2022, 2023), two second-round picks (2022, 2023), and a 2022 fifth-round pick to Seattle in exchange for QB Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick. This blockbuster deal sent waves through the league and left Seattle without a clear answer under center.
Lock played in just six games for the Broncos in 2021 after a tumultuous season in 2020. While he’s shown flashes, Lock has failed to put everything together so far. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have $39 million in available cap space and replenished their draft capital to make deals. Trading for Ryan could kill the Seahawks’ impending fire sale on offense. It would also form an intriguing offensive pairing between Ryan and WRs Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.