AFC Arms Race Continues in NFL as Colts Add Quarterback Matt Ryan in Trade With Falcons

Indianapolis only had to surrender a 2022 third-round pick to bring the four-time Pro Bowler to Indy

Matt Ryan throws the ball during warm-up before a game against the Lions. His trade from the Falcons to the Colts makes the AFC one of the most competitive conferences the NFL has seen in years.
Matt Ryan throws the ball during warm-up before a game against the Lions.
Todd Kirkland/Getty

In a move that should keep the Colts in contention in a conference that is starting to look downright scary, Indianapolis reached an agreement with Atlanta that will bring longtime Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to Indy for a 2022 third-round pick in April’s draft.

Ryan, who has won an MVP award and took the Falcons to a Super Bowl, is heading to Indianapolis for less compensation (one third-round pick) than the Colts received to send quarterback Carson Wentz, who has no MVPs and was injured when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, to Washington to play for the Commanders (two third-round picks). Once one of the NFL’s premier passers but now clearly on the back nine of his NFL career, Ryan is still an obvious upgrade over what Wentz was able to provide last season and should be able to give the Colts, who have one of the league’s best rushing attacks and a playmaking defense, the steady, competent quarterback play they need. And, although the Falcons will take a $40.525 million cap charge for trading Ryan, the Colts have him for reasonably short money at $23.75 million in 2022 and $28 million in 2023, per ProFootballTalk.

A 14-year veteran who will be 37 by the time he begins his 15th campaign in the NFL, Ryan has only missed three games during his professional career. Dependable as well as productive, he threw for at least 4,000 yards every season from 2011 until last season when he threw for 3,968, and has tossed at least 20 touchdown passes every year since his rookie season in 2008. A boost for the Colts, the four-time Pro Bowler also just makes the AFC stronger as a whole as the conference now has three teams (Colts with Ryan, Broncos with Russell Wilson and Browns with Deshaun Watson) that missed the playoffs last season that should make a run at the postseason this time and maybe even a Super Bowl.

The Raiders made the playoffs last season and didn’t make a change at quarterback, but they should be much improved thanks to the addition of star wideout Davante Adams and home-wrecking pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Elsewhere in the AFC, the Bills (Von Miller), Chiefs (JuJu Smith-Schuster) and Chargers ( J.C. Jackson and Khalil Mack) also made big additions that should help keep them in contention. With Watson now in Cleveland, former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield should also be on the move and could end up bolstering another AFC team at quarterback. A lot could, and will, happen before next season begins, but the AFC is shaping up to be one of the most competitive conferences the league has seen in quite a while.

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