What’s next for Matt Ryan? Three potential landing spots if Colts part ways with veteran QB before 2022 deadline

Matt Ryan retired after just seven games of his Indianapolis career as quarterback for the Colts. Aside from an injury to new starter Sam Ehlinger or veteran backup Nick Foles, Ryan likely played his last snap in blue as well. The Colts tried but failed to get out of their annual QB carousel and risked owing up to $17 million of Ryan’s remaining contract by returning him to the field — he has injury guarantees built into his deal — but could choose between $18 million and $18 million save $29 million by releasing or trading it in 2023.

What happens next for the longtime Falcons QB? In all likelihood nothing. Ehlinger will start, allowing coach Frank Reich to experiment with a more mobile signal caller who may have his own job on the line. Foles will be number 2. And Ryan will occupy the touchline, saved for the scenario where Indy accidentally stumbles into the late-season playoff picture and gets a shot at winter redemption through injury or performance. Regardless, chances are he’ll be released after the season, either by trade, full release, or a mutual split through retirement.

On the off chance that Ryan and/or the Colts don’t want to wait and prefer an immediate split a la Donovan McNabb with the Vikings in 2011, here’s a look at three teams that might be interested:

Bill Belichick is only courting QB drama at this point, refusing to declare either Mac Jones or rookie Bailey Zappe his starter a day after using both in an ugly home loss to the Bears. Jones is just a year away from running as the No. 15 draft pick and Zappe has flashed energy as his fill-in, but neither youngster seems overly comfortable heading into the second half of 2022 entry. If Belichick is desperate to save the season with a tough AFC East, perhaps he would welcome the one-time star he once defeated in the Super Bowl. After all, no one likes bringing old veterans back to life like he does. Ryan, meanwhile, comes from a Boston College background, wouldn’t hurt Jones or Zappe’s long-term future and could potentially draw on their base game.

Kyle Shanahan had no problem announcing two “starters” in QB as he greeted back Jimmy Garoppolo while Trey Lance prepared to “take over” under middle, so why not three? With Lance now out until 2023, the 49ers’ only insurance behind injury-prone Garoppolo rookie Brock Purdy is. Ryan, on the other hand, spent two of his best years under Shanahan in Atlanta. If San Francisco is all-in on an NFC West and playoff run, as his trade to Christian McCaffrey suggests, they could potentially welcome Ryan as the new No. 2 and give the veteran an opportunity to come off the bench in a pinch . Then, depending on how things play out, they would have a trifecta of potential starters or trade chips for 2023.

After a surprise 5-2 start with a playoff bid on the horizon, the Jets have answered questions at virtually every position except the most important one, which used 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson as little more than a heavyweight janitor floor game. Will general manager Joe Douglas, who has clearly invested in 2022 following his deal for James Robinson, be content to enter the dance with only Joe Flacco behind Wilson, who has already been injured twice in two NFL seasons, if they do approach the competition? The addition of Ryan could spark more drama on a team that doesn’t need it, but again there are connections: Not only is Ryan a native of the nearby Philly area, but he also worked with Jets offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur in Atlanta, and Jets coach Robert Saleh would have good information about the veteran from his days under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.


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