Above all else, the Indianapolis Colts need veteran quarterback Matt Ryan to do one thing next season: win. Preferably, the two-time Super Bowl champions would win enough games to capture their first AFC South title since 2014.
After that? Well, the Colts hope Ryan, who turns 37 in May, will be more than a one-year rental. For his part, the 2016 NFL MVP isn’t opposed to holding off on hanging up his cleats and retiring off into the sunset.
New Colts quarterback Matt Ryan sounds committed to playing beyond the 2022 season
Even with Tom Brady skewing the numbers, 37 years old is like the new 32 for modern quarterbacks. Although his 20 touchdown passes last season tied for his lowest since his rookie year, the 36-year-old Ryan completed 67% of his passes for 3,968 yards and led four game-winning drives in his final season with the Atlanta Falcons.
Those who believe Ryan will win the 2022 NFL MVP Award may want to rethink their strategy, especially considering the current crop of young signal-callers. However, he should be a fine stopgap option as the Colts likely start thinking about who will be the next long-term option under center.
Could Ryan be that answer? In a recent interview with NBC Sports’ Peter King, the Boston College product at least established, on the record, that he currently doesn’t expect to retire following the 2022 campaign.
“The most important thing is the passion, the energy, the want-to. I still have all of it. I’m not sure [I’ll have it for] four years, five years, six years. You know? Certainly doesn’t feel like one year, no. Absolutely not.”Matt Ryan
Ryan, the third overall pick in 2008, has two years remaining on his contract. Theoretically, he could play out those two seasons and make a final decision on his future after the 2023 campaign.
Ryan would join Andrew Luck in what is now a rare Colts fraternity
Once upon a time, the Colts had relative stability at the quarterback position. Peyton Manning never missed a start from 1998-2010, and his successor, Andrew Luck, played in every game from 2012-14. The Colts only missed the playoffs twice in that span and won Super Bowl 41 in the process, so it feels safe to say times were good in Indiana.
Then came 2015, when Luck’s injury problems limited him to seven games. From there, the carousel began spinning.
Although Luck started 15 games in 2016, shoulder surgery kept him out for the entire 2017 campaign. Scott Tolzien started the 2017 opener before turning things over to Jacoby Brissett, a recent trade acquisition who quickly became Luck’s temporary replacement.
Luck returned in 2018, retired the next summer, and Brissett started the 2019 opener. Then came Philip Rivers (2020) and Carson Wentz (2021), each of whom didn’t miss a start before retiring and being traded, respectively. Given the fact Wentz is now wearing a Washington Commanders hat, the Colts are guaranteed to have a different Week 1 starter for the seventh straight year.
Assuming Ryan starts in Week 1 this year and in 2023, he’d join Luck in what now feels like a rare fraternity: starting consecutive openers for the Colts. The days of the Iron Man in Indianapolis might be long gone, which is bad news for a team that only has one playoff victory since the 2015 season began.
Will Indianapolis select a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft regardless of Ryan’s decision?
As of publication, the Colts only had one draft selection, No. 42 overall, within the 2022 NFL Draft’s first 70 picks. Barring a trade, it appears unlikely they’ll have a chance at the likes of Liberty’s Malik Willis or Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, the consensus top-two quarterback prospects.
Could the Colts invest that second-round pick on a quarterback? Sure. Should they? Well…
The Colts already have their 2022 starter in Ryan, and he sounds like someone who wants to spend at least another two years in the league. If the four-time Pro Bowler plays well enough, he could keep a prospective successor on the bench until 2024, which isn’t ideal given the recent busy quarterback markets. By that point, the Colts might have an opportunity to turn a younger, more established quarterback into Ryan’s replacement.
It’s worth noting the Colts haven’t selected a quarterback that early since drafting Luck first overall in 2012; the current regime, led by general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich, drafted former Texas standout Sam Ehlinger in the sixth round last year.
As for the later rounds, perhaps someone like Iowa State’s Brock Purdy or Notre Dame’s Jack Coan could impress the Colts enough to warrant a Day 3 selection. Or, the Colts could hope they have an opportunity at signing an undrafted prospect and grooming him over the next couple of years.
For now, the Colts belong to Ryan, and he’ll have an opportunity to do what Wentz couldn’t: reach the playoffs. After that, we’ll see if he can top Wentz in another area and repeat as the Week 1 starter.