The quarterback taken with the third pick in the 2008 draft has two years left on his rookie deal. The team that drafted him nevertheless wants to get started on locking him up for the long haul.
It may not be easy to gauge Ryan’s value. He received a six-year, $72 million deal in one of the final years without a true rookie wage scale, and Ryan’s camp surely will use that $12 million annual average as the starting point for talks.
Though Ryan has performed well in the regular season, he’s 0-3 in the postseason. He quietly had the best season of his career statistically, a fact that was lost in the shuffle of Atlanta’s disappointing sequel to a 13-3 season, which was capped by a 24-2 loss to the Giants in the wild-card round.
Ryan’s case for a big contract would be considerably improved by a deep playoff run in 2012. With so many other quarterbacks operating at a high level (and winning playoff games, or at least scoring points in them), Ryan doesn’t yet deserve a spot at the top of the quarterback pay grade.
Maybe that’s why the Falcons are interested in doing something sooner rather than later. But that’s exactly why Ryan should wait. With base salaries of $11.5 million and $10 million due in the next two seasons, along with whatever other back-end bells and whistles are in his top-five rookie deal, Ryan should only be willing to trade that in for a new contract if the Falcons are going to pay him based on potential in relation to other top-end quarterbacks, not results.