With two types of teams in the NFL — those with franchise quarterbacks and those searching for franchise quarterbacks — the teams that have franchise quarterbacks will never let them go. But that hardly makes the ongoing contractual games of chess/checkers/chicken boring or perfunctory.
As the salary cap grows slowly and quarterback compensation continues to mushroom, teams are having a harder time finding ways to pay franchise quarterbacks while also having enough cap space to put competitive teams around them.
And so while there was no way Drew Brees would leave the Saints or Joe Flacco would leave the Ravens or Tony Romo would leave the Cowboys or Aaron Rodgers would leave the Packers or Matthew Stafford would leave the Lions, the details of their deals can have a huge impact on the futures of the specific franchises.
The team currently dealing with that dynamic is the Falcons. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, talks continue to replace the last year of Matt Ryan’s rookie contract with a long-term deal.
Time is of the essence, from the team’s perspective. Signing Ryan now means the issue won’t be a distraction during the season. It also means the Falcons won’t face what we call the Flacco trilemma in early 2014: pay Ryan market value, use the non-exclusive franchise tag and risk another team crafting an unmatchable offer sheet, or use the exclusive franchise tag and embark on a year-to-year path that could pay out $80 million in only three seasons.
Speaking of Flacco, don’t be surprised if Ryan, who entered the league the same year as the defending Super Bowl champion, pushes for factors that exceed specific aspects of Flacco’s deal. Whether it’s guaranteed money or payout over the first three years or new-money average, Ryan could emerge with a better deal than the guy who signed his back in February, when the Ravens resolved the Flacco dilemma with a six-year, $120.6 million contract.
The simple reality is that, if the Falcons wait until after Ryan emerges unscathed from the 2013 season, they’ll end up paying Ryan a lot more later than it would take to sign him now.