The Denver Broncos will be one of several NFL teams searching for a starting quarterback.
While the rumor mill keeps churning, ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell laid out three separate scenarios centered around which cities Rodgers and Wilson end up in, along with the resulting dominos that will fall if and when the two signal-callers are traded.
One of those falling dominos is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who, according to one Barnwell scenario, ends up heading to Denver in a trade.
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Ryan Could Be Option For Broncos If Top Targets Aren’t Moved
The scenario Barnwell says is “most likely” sees Rodgers and Wilson staying with their respective franchises.
The Packers and Rodgers would put their issues to rest, and as Barnwell lays out, Rodgers wins MVP again and signs an extension to stay a Packer. Meanwhile, Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll regroup for one last run in Seattle. The falling dominos create a flurry of moves around the league, including the Packers trading QB Jordan Love to the Carolina Panthers, a QB swap between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, and the Washington Football Team trades up for the number one spot in the NFL draft.
With arguably two of the top available quarterbacks now off the table, the Broncos would have to look in a new direction. According to Barnwell, Ryan fits the bill for Denver, but Broncos fans awaiting a deal for the 2016 MVP might have to be patient.
“Landing Ryan would be a fallback plan for the Broncos, who might think they’re Super Bowl contenders with a good quarterback,” Barnwell wrote. “For cap reasons, the Falcons probably have to wait to make this trade until after June 1, when they can spread the $40.5 million in dead money they’ll create with a Ryan deal over the 2022 and 2023 caps.”
According to Spotrac, Ryan has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $16.2 million in 2022 and $20.5 million in 2023, including $7.5 million in roster bonuses each year.
If Atlanta trades Ryan before June 1, the $40.5 million in dead cap falls on 2022, instead of the dead cap being spread over 2022 ($24.9 million) and 2023 ($15.6 million), creating $23.7 million in cap savings Post-June 1.
Even with a 7-8 mark this season, a winning record, and the playoffs are still within reach for the Falcons with two games remaining. However, by season end, Atlanta will likely miss the postseason for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
Ryan will be 37 next season and probably isn’t a part of the Falcons’ future. Atlanta may want to cut the cord early on Ryan and move him in the offseason. With new head coach Arthur Smith wrapping up his first season at the helm, the Falcons may also want to bring in a younger quarterback, one that Smith can groom.
On the other side, Ryan may see the writing on the wall and look to force his way out of Atlanta, hoping to land with a contender at the backend of his career.
Since being drafted third overall in the 2008 NFL draft, Ryan has spent his 14-year career with the Falcons. In 220 games with Atlanta, Ryan has amassed 366 touchdown passes to 169 interceptions, thrown for 59,322 yards, and compiled a 94.3 quarterback rating, per Pro Football Reference.
Ryan Has Denied Rumors of a Trade Demand
On October 3, the Washington Time’s Thom Loverro tweeted that Ryan wanted out of Atlanta and had his sights set on joining the Washington Football Team.
Speaking with The Athletic two days later, Ryan denied the notion that he wanted to be traded out of Atlanta.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Ryan told the Athletic. “I don’t know where it would have come from – I’m giving you a credible source right here; that’s just not true.”
Ryan’s wife Sarah responded with sources of her own, clapping back at a now-deleted tweet from NFL journalist Cam Marino which also suggested the 2016 MVP was trying to force a trade.
On October 5, speaking with Heavy’s Kelsey Kramer, Ryan confirmed his wife’s source, once again throwing cold water on the rumors.
“I can confirm,” Ryan said. “I would trust her take on things moreso than I would trust anybody else’s. Her source is confirmed.”
Broncos Still a Match For Rodgers?
If Rodgers is traded this offseason, Barnwell believes it will be to Denver.
Barnwell speculated the price for Rodgers could be first and second-round draft picks in both 2022 and 2023, along with tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. As many other Rodgers-to-Denver trades have included, Barnwell adds that the Broncos would sign Rodgers to an extension worth $126 million with two voidable years that essentially runs the deal into the 2024 season.
Rodgers recently spoke about his future and possible retirement after this season during a December 29 press conference.
“I wouldn’t rule that out,” Rodgers said. “I think that I’m just enjoying this season for this season. Playing next year will definitely be in the thought process. One of the things that, and you know I have obviously talked about this over the years, wanting to not be a bum on the way out and to still be able to play I think is important to me. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that I can still play. I still have a love for the game. I’m still super competitive and still enjoy the process of the week.”
Per Pro Football Reference, heading into Week 17, Rodgers has 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions for 3,689 yards. Rodgers leads the NFL in quarterback rating (110.8) and touchdown percentage per attempt (6.9), he’s fourth in passing touchdowns (33), and sixth in completion percentage (68.0).
The fallout Barnwell weaves after the Rodgers trade to the Broncos includes the 49ers trading Jimmy Garappolo to the Panthers, Carolina sending Sam Darnold to the New Orleans Saints, Ryan Fitzpatrick signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jared Goff signing with the Cincinnati Bengals after being released by the Detroit Lions.
Trade Scenario Has Broncos Acquiring NFC South QB