Matt Ryan is expected to be the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback for at least 2021, but his presence shouldn't stop the club from considering adding a potential replacement for down the line.
Sitting with the No. 4 overall pick, the Falcons are in a position to snag a future signal-caller in the 2021 NFL Draft, allowing that player to learn for a year under Ryan, then take over in 2022, a.k.a. the Patrick Mahomes method.
Ryan's exorbitant salary -- $40-plus-million cap figure this year -- makes him a certainty to remain on the club at least until next year when his dead-money figure would shrink to a more manageable range.
New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot recently joined the Huddle & Flow podcast with NFL Network's Jim Trotter and Steve Wyche. While Fontenot didn't explicitly suggest how the Falcons would buffer the QB room, his comments suggest he's open to using that top draft pick on a signal-caller if it's the right fit.
"Whether we're talking about free agency or whether we're talking about the draft, we are going to add to every position," Fontenot said. "We'll build strength. We're not afraid to build strength. We're going to add to every position. It's about adding. We want a culture of competition, and (coach) Arthur Smith has said it: We want to bring in smart, tough, highly competitive football players that are going to fit this culture. And we're going to do that at every position, whether it's QB or whether it's WR.
"You look at (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf. You always bring in quarterbacks. You need to bring in quarterbacks, whether it's in the draft, whether it's in free agency, or signing guys off the street. It's so important, bring in quarterbacks a lot, build strengths. (Former Ravens GM) Ozzie Newsome, bring in the best players available. These are men that have had all that success, and it's about having the right 53, but we have to add competition at every position. So we're not going to be afraid to add to strengths. But both (Ryan and Julio Jones) are really good and I'm excited to be here with those players."
With Ryan and Jones on the roster, the Falcons could be a contender for a one-year turnaround. If the defense flips the script and the stars stay healthy, Atlanta owns the talent to compete right away. The possibility of the Falcons being one of the teams that go from cellar to contender motivates the club to give it one more go with their two stars.
It's Fontenot's job, however, to think beyond one year. In an ideal world, the club would never again be in a position high enough in the draft to grab a franchise QB. It makes the No. 4 overall pick an interesting choice for the first-time GM. Does he add a potential playmaker who could immediately boost the product or a QB who might not see the field in 2021?
Echoing Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Fontenot noted that no player is untouchable, including Ryan or Jones, and underscored that adding competition to every position will be essential for a quick Falcons turnaround.
"I don't think you'd ever be in a situation where you'd say anybody is untouchable," the 40-year-old said. "That's not the right culture. If you're building a culture, like I said, of competition, then that doesn't make sense to say this person can't be touched."