He has only missed three games in his 13-year career and has played in 10 postseason games.
However, the fortunes of the Atlanta Falcons regressed after their painful overtime loss in Super Bowl LI.
They did make the playoffs the following year with a 10-6 record but lost to the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.
The Falcons have not entered the playoffs since as they went 7-9, 7-9, and 4-12 over the last three seasons.
The Atlanta Falcons become the first NFL team to reach a 100% COVID-19 vaccination rate pic.twitter.com/Uz2lBAA9Wo
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) August 16, 2021
Those are three years that the franchise wasted while having one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the league.
Sadly, turning back the hands of time is impossible.
Ryan is already 36 years old and may have a few good seasons left.
While he’s durable as they come, his inevitable retirement will come sooner than later.
There’s a strong possibility that the five-year, $150 million contract he signed in 2018 is his last.
If that’s the case, the Falcons have at least three seasons left with him under center.
No wonder the franchise is making some moves to become contenders again.
Ryan’s Restructured Contract
Even Ryan himself wants to give his team more opportunities to sign better players.
In 2019, he converted $8.75 million of his base salary into a signing bonus to free up $7 million in cap space.
He did the same thing in 2020, not once but twice.
In January 2020, $12.5 million of his base salary became a bonus to create an additional $9.4 million cap room.
Two months later, he converted another $6.95 million of his pay into a bonus to free up another $5.2 million in cap room.
This year, his base salary went down from $23 million to $2 million.
The $21 million difference will be divided as guaranteed money over the next three years.
The restructuring of his contract is an indication that Ryan understands that he can only get so many opportunities while playing at a high level.
Matt Ryan's placement on this is insane pic.twitter.com/NNpQzGIGTt
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) August 11, 2021
While he did throw for 4,586 yards and 26 touchdowns last year, his huge cap hit would have crippled the Falcons’ ability to improve their overall talent.
Likewise, it’s highly unlikely, but the upcoming season could be Ryan’s last because his contract has a potential out after 2021.
If that thought is playing in his mind, he’d certainly like his last hurrah to count.
Some of their Pro Bowlers are gone.
Of course, the most significant change is Julio Jones’ transition from the Falcons to the Tennessee Titans.
They’ve replaced those players with younger but equally talented ones.
Calvin Ridley is their undisputed top receiver after collecting 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020.
Then, they made Kyle Pitts the highest-selected tight end in NFL history when he came in fourth during the 2021 draft.
KYLE PITTS HYPE VIDEO IS HERE
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 13, 2021
That’s a receiving duo that can haunt the rest of the league for years.
Throw in Russell Gage into the equation and the Falcons offense is onto something.
Aside from scoring, the team also beefed up on defense.
It’s a big hole to fill considering that they gave up 25.9 points and 398.4 yards (fourth-worst) per game last season.
No wonder five of their nine draftees in 2021 are on defense, and three of them will be part of the secondary.
The Falcons took safety Richie Grant in the second round, cornerback Darren Hall in the fourth round, and cornerback Avery Williams in the fifth.
Completing their list of defensive draftees are linemen Ta’Quon Graham and Adetokunbo Ogundeji.
They are hoping that the new additions will help maintain whatever lead Ryan and company will build or shut down their opponents.