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The Indianapolis Colts have some big decisions to make this offseason, and one of them surrounds quarterback Matt Ryan’s massive contract.
What the Colts will do with Ryan remains a mystery this early in the offseason, and it will be one of the toughest decisions general manager Chris Ballard faces over the next few months.
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The Colts are deep into their search for a new head coach, and that’s the priority right now. But a decision with Ryan’s contract will likely be at the top of the list once a new head coach is hired.
Ryan himself said after the season that he doesn’t know what to expect in the coming months but that he’s preparing to work in a typical fashion because he’s technically under contract for the 2023 season.
Using Spotrac as a reference, here are the options the Colts have when it comes to Ryan’s contract this offseason
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Here’s the overview of Ryan’s contract entering the 2023 offseason:
- $19,205,882 base salary
- $12 million of base salary fully guaranteed
- $6 million against the cap from 2022 restructure
- $10 million roster bonus (due March 17)
- Additional $7,205,882, of base salary guaranteed on March 17
- Accounts for $35,205,882 salary-cap hit
If the Colts release Ryan
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If the Colts don’t want to bring Ryan back for his final season, this may be the most likely outcome. It will be difficult to find a trade partner willing to take on his contract. Should the Colts really want to clean house in the quarterback room, a release may be the most likely choice.
Typically, a player released during the early months of the offseason is considered a pre-June 1 release. When this happens, all of the non-guaranteed money turns into savings for the team. Meanwhile, the guaranteed money turns into dead cap.
For Ryan, a pre-June 1 release is pretty clean-cut. Should the Colts take this route, they would save $17,205,882 in salary-cap space but take on a dead-cap hit of $18 million.
This is because they save the roster bonus of $10 million and the additional base salary guarantee of $7,205,882, both of which go into effect March 17. These are also guaranteed for injury so if Ryan fails a physical, the Colts could be on the hook regardless. But Ryan said after the season, he’s physically healthy.
There’s already $12 million of Ryan’s base salary guaranteed along with $6 million from the 2022 restructure, making up the $18 million in dead cap.
It should be noted that in order for the Colts to save that $17.2 million, Ryan must be released before March 17.
If Ryan is traded
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This is an unlikely scenario, but it would be the best outcome for the Colts in terms of money. It’s likely they will be selecting a quarterback in the 2023 NFL draft so if they didn’t want Ryan around as a bridge option/mentor, they could look to deal him away. Doing so would mean the Colts take on $6 million in dead cap while saving $29.2 million.
The problem will be finding a suitor. Ryan didn’t play well enough to warrant another team taking on his contract so we shouldn’t expect a trade. It’s always possible because it’s the NFL, but we shouldn’t expect it.
If Ryan retires
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This would be a decision that would help the Colts financially as well. However, it didn’t seem like Ryan was all that ready to hang up the spikes when he was speaking to the media at the end of the season. He sounded like a player who feels like he has more left in the tank. Going out on a season like 2022 isn’t something a competitor would easily consider.
But if Ryan did want to call it a career, it would essentially be the same as if the Colts traded him away. They would eat $6 million in dead cap and save $29.2 million against the cap. But we don’t have enough information right now about Ryan’s thoughts to know which way he’s leaning.
He Could Return
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There’s a universe where Ryan simply returns and works in the quarterback room during the final year of his contract. It wouldn’t be the easiest outcome for the Colts considering how expensive it would be, but they may value his work ethic, leadership skills and intelligence to help mold a young quarterback. This wouldn’t be the most popular decision, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibilities.
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