Smith: Ryan to be Falcons' QB for long time

The big storylines for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason have been the addition of running back Steven Jackson and what will happen at defensive end and cornerback.

But there’s something else on the horizon. That’s getting quarterback Matt Ryan signed to a long-term contract extension.

"From my point of view, we all know that Matt Ryan is going to be the quarterback for a long time in the Atlanta Falcons organization," coach Mike Smith told the media at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday. “He undoubtedly, in my mind, is an elite quarterback. He's played that way through his first five years.’’

It’s going to be costly and there will be salary-cap implications on the rest of the roster for years to come. Ryan is likely to get a deal that puts him on a pay scale similar to Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Smith didn’t say if negotiations have started on an extension, but it’s clearly a priority.

“In terms of the timing and all that, I don't concern myself with it,’’ Smith said. “That's something that (general manager) Thomas (Dimitroff) and (team president) Rich McKay and his representatives have to talk about. But I know this is going to be our quarterback for a long, long time.''

I highly doubt the Falcons will let Ryan go into the final season of his rookie deal without a new contract. I’d look for them to get through the rest of free agency and the NFL draft and then focus on locking up Ryan for the long term.