Falcons looking long-term after trading Matt Ryan to Colts
The Matt Ryan era is over in Atlanta, with the Falcons now looking to the future, even if that means a miserable 2022.
Owner Arthur Blank believes the Atlanta Falcons needed to move on from quarterback Matt Ryan in pursuit of a new "long-term plan".
Ryan was Atlanta's starter from being taken with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft until he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last month.
The 2016 NFL MVP missed only three games in 14 years, with only two players – Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (225) and Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch (223) – playing more than his 222 games in that time.
But Ryan is now 36 and last year failed to pass 4,000 passing yards in a season for the first time since 2010, despite the 17-game schedule.
The Falcons have not played a playoff game since 2017, and Blank felt it was time to reset.
Falcons "have to get ready for the next 14, 15 years"
"It has nothing to do with how much we appreciate or love Matt, which we do both," he said, as quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But you know there has to be a long-term plan.
"We have to get ready for the next 14, 15 years – and that's what our fans really should expect us to do.
"It shouldn't be a fire drill when we have that transition to make. So, we're trying to prepare for that as best we can."
Blank is not expecting a winning season in 2022 but is hopeful for 2023.
"Next year we should be in a position where there'll be the biggest cap space that we've had since I've owned the team over 21 years," he said.
"It'll be something north of $100million to $110m. So, we'll have an opportunity to extend our own players and be more active in free agency than we were this year."