The Indianapolis Colts acquired quarterback Matt Ryan in a trade Monday with the Atlanta Falcons. Indy will send a third-round pick, No. 82 overall, for the longtime Falcons star.
Ryan, who turns 37 in May, led Atlanta to its second Super Bowl appearance following the 2016 season, the same year he was named the league’s MVP.
Ryan’s arrival means the Colts will be starting a new opening-day quarterback for the sixth consecutive year. Indy traded last year’s starter, Carson Wentz, to the Washington Commanders earlier this month.
The trade with the Colts was quickly worked out quickly, giving Indianapolis the big-time quarterback it has been pursuing since Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement prior to the 2018 season at age 29.
The deal for Ryan came shortly after the Falcons made a highly publicized but failed bid to acquire Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
After Watson supposedly narrowed his potential choices for a trade to New Orleans and Atlanta — and with plenty of speculation that the Falcons were the favorite since Watson is a Georgia native — he stunningly changed his mind and accepted a $230 million, fully guaranteed deal with the Cleveland Browns. The Texans received three first-round picks in the deal.
When their public courting of Watson fell apart, it became clear Ryan did not want to return to a team where he had played his entire NFL career and then openly tried to replace him.
Ryan is undoubtedly the greatest quarterback in Falcons history, the No. 3 overall pick in 2008 who stepped in to replace Michael Vick and steady a franchise rocked by coach Bobby Petrino’s departure after 13 games and Vick’s imprisonment for running a dogfighting ring.
With Ryan running the offense, the Falcons rebounded from a 4-12 mark in 2007 to make the playoffs in 2008 — the start of a run of five straight winning seasons that included three postseason appearances. Until Ryan arrived, Atlanta had never even managed back-to-back winning seasons since joining the NFL as an expansion team in 1966.
After several down years for the team, Ryan turned in his greatest season in 2016, throwing for a career-best 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns. Atlanta appeared headed for its first Super Bowl crown when it took a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots by late in the third quarter.
But Tom Brady engineered the greatest comeback in title game history for a 34-28 overtime victory.
Even though the Falcons made one more playoff appearance in the Ryan era the following year, they never seemed to recover from that stunning collapse on the NFL’s biggest stage. Atlanta has endured four straight losing seasons, including a 7-10 mark last year, and is clearly in rebuilding mode.
The trade leaves just one quarterback, Felipe Franks, on Atlanta’s roster.