The largest cap hit in the NFL is coming down.
The Atlanta Falcons are restructuring quarterback Matt Ryan's contract, lowering the $48,662,500 cap hit he was initially going to be at for the 2022 season by $12 million, according to Roster Management System.
The team converted $7.5 million of his base salary and a $7.5 million roster bonus that was initially due next week into a signing bonus to spread it out over more years, which will give the Falcons more room to play with. Ryan's new cap number for 2022 is $36,662,500 and his new base salary is $8.75 million.
To do this, the Falcons added three voidable years from 2024-2026 totaling $9 million. Ryan's dead money for 2022 is now $55.525 million.
Atlanta, which was over the salary cap a week ago, now has $16,215,670, according to Roster Management System after Ryan's restructure and Monday's suspension of Calvin Ridley for at least the 2022 season for gambling on games. Ridley's suspension took $11.1 million off Atlanta's books for this season.
At this month's NFL combine, Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot acknowledged some of the team's massive contracts were "the elephant in the room." Ryan's contract -- specifically the cap number -- had been one of the biggest topics of conversation for how the Falcons were going to get under the salary cap.
"It is a challenge. I wouldn't say it's a problem," Fontenot said. "I would say it's a challenge, something we have to work around."
It's the fourth straight year the Falcons have restructured Ryan's contract. Ryan is under contract until after 2023 season, where his cap hit will be $46,612,500, but the potential dead money in the deal drops to $27,612,500.
Ryan, who turns 37 in May, completed 67% of his passes last season for 3,968 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his first year under coach Arthur Smith. It was the first time since the 2010 season he threw for under 4,000 yards and only the third time in his career he threw fewer than 21 touchdown passes. Ryan also was sacked 40 times last season -- the fourth straight year he has been sacked at least 40 times.
In February, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team has thought about a succession plan for Ryan and that those conversations had been happening before Smith and Fontenot were hired.
"Let's make this clear. At some point, we do need to understand that Father Time does get us all and at some point we have to make a clear succession plan for the next quarterback," Blank said in February. "Teams in the league that have done that successfully really are in a good position.
"The ones that haven't are the ones that struggle for a number of years as they flip in and out of quarterbacks that are not really the ultimate answer."
At the combine, Smith said they anticipated Ryan being part of the Falcons this season, but left open the possibility of a move if a team made Atlanta an offer it couldn't turn down. Smith has been steadfast in saying similar comments since the end of the season about Ryan and his future in Atlanta.