BY MICHAEL MAROT – AP sportswriter
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts acquired quarterback Matt Ryan in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons Monday, The Associated Press has learned.
According to a person with knowledge of the deal, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been made official yet, Indy will send a third-round pick, No. 82 overall, for the longtime Falcons star.
Ryan, who turns 37 in May, led Atlanta to his second Super Bowl appearance after the 2016 season, the same year he was named league MVP.
Ryan’s arrival means the Colts will field a new opening-day quarterback for the sixth straight year. Indy traded last year’s starter Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders earlier this month.
The deal with the Colts was quickly worked out, giving Indianapolis the great quarterback it has pursued since Andrew Luck’s surprise pre-season retirement at age 29.
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Ryan’s deal came shortly after the Falcons made a widely publicized but failed bid to acquire Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
After allegedly narrowing down his potential trade options to New Orleans and Atlanta – and with much speculation that the Falcons were the favorites as Watson is from Georgia – Watson surprisingly changed his mind and accepted a $230 million deal with full guarantee with the Cleveland Browns. The Texans received three first-round picks as part of the deal.
As her public endorsement of Watson fell apart, it became clear that Ryan did not want to return to a team he had played his entire NFL career on and then openly sought to replace him.
Ryan is arguably the greatest quarterback in Falcons history, ranking No. 3 overall in 2008, replacing Michael Vick and stabilizing a franchise threatened by the departure of coach Bobby Petrino after 13 games and Vick’s incarceration for running a dogfighting ring was shaken.
With Ryan on offense, the Falcons rebounded from a 4-12 mark in 2007 to make the playoffs in 2008 — the start of a streak of five straight winning seasons, including three postseason appearances. By the time Ryan arrived, Atlanta had not won a straight season since joining the NFL as an expansion team in 1966.
After several bad years for the team, Ryan had his best season in 2016, rushing for a career-best 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns. Atlanta seemed on course for their first Super Bowl crown as they took a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots late in the third quarter.
But Tom Brady made the biggest comeback in the history of the title game with a 34-28 win in overtime.
Though the Falcons made one more playoff appearance the following year in the Ryan era, they never seemed to recover from that stunning meltdown on the NFL’s biggest stage. Atlanta has lost four straight seasons, including a 7-10 mark last year, and is clearly in rebuild mode.
The trade leaves only one quarterback, Felipe Franks, on Atlanta’s roster.
Atlanta-based AP National Writer Paul Newberry also contributed to this report.
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