How Much Longer are the Colts Stuck With the Big-Money Matt Ryan Contract?
After the Indianapolis Colts shockingly missed the playoffs in 2021, the team couldn’t get rid of Carson Wentz fast enough. They brought in Matt Ryan and his big-money deal and thought that would solve all the team’s problems. Fast forward a year, and the Colts aren’t even sniffing the playoffs. It turns out Wentz wasn’t the biggest problem after all. Now the team has Ryan and, maybe, more importantly, the Matt Ryan contract. As the aging QB is now third string behind Nick Foles and Sam Ehlinger to close the season, the question becomes, how long are the Colts stuck with this deal?
The Matt Ryan contract
The Matt Ryan experiment has been a failure for the Indianapolis Colts. The team is 4-9-1, and Ryan is 4-7-1 as a starter. He does have 3,057 yards this season but also has put up 13 interceptions to 14 touchdowns.
The Matty Ice magic is gone, but it’s not entirely his fault. The offensive line has allowed 38 sacks this season, and the running game has also faltered. Jonathan Taylor will end his season nearly 1,000 yards short of last year’s total.
The good news is — unlike the Denver Broncos of Los Angeles Rams before them — the Colts only gave up a third-round pick to get Ryan. The bad news is there is still a year left on the Matt Ryan contract.
The then-Atlanta Falcons QB is a $150,000,000 deal in 2018 that included a $46,500,000 signing bonus, $100,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $30,000,000.
Tyan has since restructured slightly, so in 2022, the Colts are paying him a base salary of $5,205,882, $7,500,000, and $12,000,000 roster and restructure bonuses, respectively, with a cap hit of $18,705,882 and a dead cap figure of $24,705,882.
In 2023, the Matt Ryan contract includes a $19,205,882 base salary, a $10,000,000 roster bonus, and a $6,000,000 restructure bonus. That adds up to a $35,205,882 cap hit.
However, the dead cap number is only $18 million, so cutting Ryan would save over $17 million next season. And if the Colts cut Ryan after June 1, they can spread that $18 million dead cap figure over two seasons.
So, the long and the short of it is that when Week 18 of the 2022 season ends, Ryan’s time in Indianapolis is almost certainly done.
How do the Indianapolis Colts rebuild
The Colts have, frankly, been spoiled over the last 20 years. They lucked (no pun intended) into two generationally QBs a decade and a half apart and didn’t have to truly “rebuild” during the Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck Eras.
However, as the last few seasons have proven, trying to patch together a Super Bowl-caliber team with aging or mediocre QBs (Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan) just isn’t sustainable.
Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard (although Irsay should fire his GM, too, and start over) need to rebuild. However, due to another lucky stroke of fate, they may not have to tear it down and start again.
Right now, the Colts hold the No. 6 overall pick. Usually, that’s not good enough to get a top QB in the NFL draft. This year is shaking out differently, though.
Ahead of the Colts are the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos), Detroit Lions (via Rams), and Arizona Cardinals. Other than the Texans, it is conceivable that all those teams stick with their current guys at QB (Justin Fields, Geno Smith, Jared Goff, Kyler Murray).
If that happens and no other teams blow away the Bears or the Seahawks with a massive offer for Nos. 2 or 3, it is possible that the No. 2 signal-caller in the draft (likely Ohio State’s CJ Stroud after Alabama’s Bryce Young) slips all the way to No. 6 and the Colts.
This would give the team a jumpstart without having to strip the team down to the studs to rebuild.
Now, if Irsay can just hire the right coach …