Another big-name quarterback trade hit the wire on Monday, with the Colts acquiring longtime Falcons standout Matt Ryan in exchange for a 2022 third-round draft pick. The move marks a swift end to sudden trade speculation regarding the Atlanta veteran, who had reportedly been given permission to vet potential landing spots during the Falcons' failed pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
With Ryan headed to Indianapolis, which side won Monday's trade? Here's how we'd grade each side:
Colts grade: B+
You can't expect to apply new Band-Aids to the QB position every year and keep winning games, but golly if this isn't one of the best possible outcomes for a franchise that was so desperate to unload Carson Wentz after one year that it dealt the former Eagles star to Washington without any firm succession plan in place. No, the soon-to-be 37-year-old Ryan doesn't come close to solving their longstanding need for a long-term signal-caller. But with the Falcons absorbing his monster cap hits, he'll cost the Colts just $54 million over the next two years, which is almost exactly what Wentz was due through 2023.
More than that, Ryan figures to at least give the Colts production in the same ballpark as 2021 Wentz, who was fine but unspectacular for much of his Indy debut. Ryan may not be elite or even upper-tier anymore, but he's firmly in the "serviceable" category, and also a historically more reliable game manager than Wentz. This isn't quite Matthew Stafford to the Rams, but you can easily envision a scenario where Ryan rebounds in a more comfortable setup, returning the Colts to the playoffs. His arrival, meanwhile, underscores the shortsighted but still-admirable turn of events at QB here: a year after trading first- and third-round picks for Wentz, Indy essentially flipped Wentz for two thirds, and has now replaced him with Ryan for one of those picks.
It's yet another rental, for sure, but at least there's good value here.
Falcons grade: C-
Let's be clear up front: the Falcons aren't wrong to move on from Ryan at this stage of his career, and this stage of their rebuild. They can't be faulted for cutting ties with an aging, expensive QB who, while borderline legendary on and off the field in Atlanta, has now been just an OK starter for roughly three seasons and counting. Saving an instant $9 million by unloading his deal is a mild bonus, considering the countless holes they still must fill. And if this trade allows them to freely pursue a hotshot QB in the draft (Malik Willis?) to groom behind newly acquired Marcus Mariota, then perhaps it'll deserve more praise. But man, Atlanta really botched the process here.
First, all it could get for Ryan, even coming off a middling year, was a third-rounder? You can't convince us that the Falcons wouldn't have gotten somebody to offer a second, or maybe even a late first, had they actually shopped him at the start of the offseason rather than pretending to build a contender around him. Worst of all, his departure was no doubt fueled by the organization's failed pursuit of embattled Texans-turned-Browns QB Deshaun Watson, who got a red-carpet recruitment while facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct, all while Ryan and his clean, sturdy resume of Falcons loyalty watched. In the end, they'll eat over $40 million -- an NFL record dead money hit -- just to let the latter leave.
The future was already knocking at their door, but they aren't exactly waltzing into it on a good note.