INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts acquired Matt Ryan last March thinking he would help them make a postseason run, maybe even win a Super Bowl.
Now the two sides are now splitting up — and Ryan's long career could be over.
Indy plans to release the quarterback officially Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the decision has not been announced publicly.
By releasing the 37-year-old Ryan, the Colts will save about $17.2 million in salary cap space next season. Indy also saved an additional nearly $8 million by trading veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore to Dallas for a fifth-round pick, though they'll use some of that by signing former Los Angeles Rams kicker Matt Gay.
Gay confirmed the deal in two Twitter posts — one thanking the Rams and their fans, the other announcing his excitement for joining Indy.
But the Ryan move came as no surprise.
Indy holds the No. 4 overall pick in next month's NFL draft and most analysts expect it to select one of four quarterbacks — 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, two-time Big Ten offensive player of the year C.J. Stroud, strong-armed Will Levis or Anthony Richardson.
“We get caught up in arm strength, but guys that are accurate and who makes plays when the game is on the line,” general manager Chris Ballard said two weeks ago, explaining what he values in quarterbacks. “You look around the league and I think you can track this back to 7-on-7 back in high schools, 20, 25 years ago — you’re getting a lot more athletes playing the position.”
Some even believe Indy may trade up for one of the top three though the reported deal between Chicago and quarterback-needy Carolina for the top overall pick could complicate Indy's plans. Houston, also a quarterback-needy team, picks second while Arizona is at No. 3 but already has Kyler Murray signed to a long-term deal.
The likelihood of adding a young, franchise quarterback to provide stability for a team that has used a different opening day starter for six straight seasons made Ryan and his $35.2 cap hit expendable.
What's next for the league's 2016 MVP also remains unclear.
In January, Ryan said he wasn't ready to would retire and that he could still play at a high level.
His film and stats revealed a different story.
Ryan struggled in his only season with the Colts, playing for two head coaches, two offensive coordinators and two play-callers while working behind an offensive line that allowed the NFL's second-highest sacks total (60). Injuries also slowed 2021 NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor and having just one consistent receiving option — Michael Pittman Jr. — didn't help.
The result: Ryan finished with the league's second-most giveaways (18) despite playing five fewer games than Josh Allen (19), was sacked 40 times and benched twice in his only season in Indy.
With Ryan set to turn 38 just six days after new Colts coach Shane Steichen celebrates his 38th birthday in May and coming off the worst season of his career made it almost impossible to keep the four-time Pro Bowler especially without taking a huge pay cut.
“I still love playing and I think obviously, not committed to anything, here, wherever, I have to see how it shakes out,” Ryan said in January. “But I still love playing and still feel like honestly, I still feel like there’s a lot of good football in my body. We’ll see what happens.”
Ryan played his first 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where he became the franchise's career leader in all of the major passing categories after being selected No. 3 overall out of Boston College. He won the NFL's 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Award and his high school in Philadelphia was featured on ABC's hit comedy “The Goldbergs.”
Ryan ranks fifth all time in completions (5,551), seventh in yards passing (62,792) and ninth in touchdown passes (381).
The Colts might not be finished making moves.
They must still decide what to do with 34-year-old backup Nick Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP who made two starts before an injury ended his season. Foles joined Indy in part because he wanted to reunite with coach Frank Reich, who was fired in October and has since been hired by Carolina, and is under contract for $3.6 million next season when he could serve as a mentor to whomever the Colts draft.
Releasing him would save an additional $2.5 million and would likely put Indy in the market for a low-priced backup or a bridge starter until a rookie is ready to play.
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