Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, March 1, 2013
Falcons' moves also about Matt Ryan

By Pat Yasinskas

I know there is a lot of talk from Atlanta Falcons fans about how the release of Michael Turner, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson could mean Atlanta is going after Dwight Freeney and Steven Jackson.

That could happen because the Falcons suddenly have decent salary-cap room. But I’m not sure Friday morning’s moves were as much about Jackson and Freeney as they are about Sam Baker, William Moore and Brent Grimes. Those are Atlanta’s top three free agents and I fully expect the Falcons to make an attempt to keep them.

But there’s another layer to these moves that can’t be ignored. That’s quarterback Matt Ryan's contract.

He’s scheduled to head into the final season of his contract. I don’t see the Falcons doing what the Ravens did with Joe Flacco last season or what the Bucs appear to be doing with Josh Freeman for this upcoming season.

I see no way the Falcons let Ryan go into the 2013 season without a long-term contract extension. The Falcons are as high as can be on Ryan and he’s happy in Atlanta. Every indication I’ve gotten is the Falcons will try to lock Ryan up for the long term some time this spring.

That’s going to take a lot of money and I’m not talking just this year. Ryan’s going to cost $15 million to $20 million a season.

Turner’s contract was going to expire after the 2013 season, so his release was just a short-term move.

But the departures of Abraham and Robinson were about much more than just 2013. Abraham had been scheduled to count $6.75 million against the 2014 salary cap.

Robinson was scheduled to count $11 million against the 2014 cap and $12.5 million against the 2015 cap. Those numbers now are off the books.

The Falcons have cleared the way to fit a massive contract for Ryan under the cap in future years.