The Atlanta Falcons' 2020 season ended with a 44-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, marking the start of an offseason that many expect to bring about some notable changes for the franchise.
Among those changes will be a new full-time head coach and general manager, but it's possible that some big decisions regarding the roster will be made as well by the new leadership.
Earlier this season, owner Arthur Blank and team president Rich McKay said that the team's new leadership would ultimately be the ones to make those decisions, even something as important as the quarterback position. At 35 years old, Matt Ryan has proven he's still capable of playing at a high level, and he hopes to remain with Atlanta moving forward. As is life in the NFL, however, he understands that's not fully in his control.
"I think I'm here," Ryan said Sunday. "I feel like I can be a really good football player for this team for a long time but no one knows. You never know in this league what can happen, but I feel good about it."
The Falcons are in a unique situation and at a bit of a crossroads.
Will the Falcons attempt to re-tool and compete for the postseason in 2021, or will they opt for a more substantial rebuild and transition away from some of the core pieces on the roster? How they answer that question will provide more clarity on what decisions might come.
Top-flight quarterbacks aren't easy to find, but they are usually an essential part of success in the NFL. Ryan, a former NFL MVP, is certainly not the biggest problem the Falcons have had, and it wouldn't make much financial sense to part ways with him needlessly.
According to Spotrac, Ryan carries a dead cap hit of nearly $50 million in 2021 and $26.5 million in 2022. He also has cap hits of around $40 million in each of those years, which would likely make it difficult for the Falcons to find a trading partner if they are intent on moving on from their all-time leading passer.
Despite the impact it will have on the organization's future, Ryan explained that he isn't going to seek to be actively involved in the hiring process of the new head coach and general manager, although he is willing to give his input if Blank or McKay ask for it.
"I think it's in their hands to make a decision to go through a process to find the best person for our organization when it comes to head coach and GM," Ryan said. "They know where I'm at if they need me. I'm obviously available and willing to give my input – and I've done that with them consistently throughout my career. So, they know how I feel but it's definitely on them."
Ryan ended the 2020 season playing his best football of the year. Against Tampa Bay, he completed 29 of his 44 pass attempts for 265 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. After throwing three interceptions in the Falcons' Week 14 loss to the Chargers, Ryan rebounded to throw for 921 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in his final three games.
For the year, Ryan threw for 4,581 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He is currently ranked ninth all-time with 55,767 career passing yards and needs fewer than 1,300 yards to move ahead of Eli Manning and climb to eighth in the record books.
Drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Ryan was brought to Atlanta to help the organization win football games. While his run as the franchise quarterback has been the most successful in team history, the wins haven't been there for Ryan or the Falcons in recent seasons.
Moving forward, Ryan would like nothing more than to be here and help correct that.
"I want to be here," Ryan said. "And I want to be a part of getting this turned around and get back in the playoffs."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers with top photos from Week 17.