The Atlanta Falcons' new brass signaled they were sticking with Matt Ryan when they reworked his contract, pushing his salary-cap figure northward in 2022. They underscored that plan when they rebuffed adding a quarterback during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Ryan's new quarterbacks coach, Charles London, raved about the 36-year-old's ability to continue playing at a high level.
"We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year," London said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this this offense. I look forward to working with him. He has a very unique skill-set."
The former NFL MVP has thrown for 4,000-plus yards in each of the past 10 seasons, including 4,581 in 2020, while leading the NFL in attempts (626) and completions (407).
"He's been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level," London said. "We expect that to continue this year."
Sitting at No. 4 overall, the Falcons could have drafted a QB, like Justin Fields, to take over for Ryan eventually. The logic went that if everything goes right under new coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot, Atlanta won't be in a position to select a high-caliber successor for the aging QB.
Instead of investing a pick in a player who might not play for a year or two, Atlanta snagged Kyle Pitts, who most scouts graded as the top non-QB in the draft, making him the highest-drafted tight end in the draft's history.
The Falcons are betting that the talent surrounding Ryan can prolong his career. Given modern medicine and player conditioning, it's possible Ryan retains his status as a top-10 signal-caller and can get back to his MVP-caliber play in Smith's offense.
The team will worry about the eventual transition later on.
Tune in to the 2021 NFL Schedule release at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 12, on NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app.