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The Falcons didn't acquire Deshaun Watson.
But their pursuit of the contentious quarterback got the ball rolling on Matt Ryan's exit. So says Matt Ryan.
The now-Indianapolis Colts quarterback opened up on his departure from Atlanta in a recent appearance on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. He said that he started to explore his options when he found out that Atlanta was seeking to secure Watson's services.
"I kind of got filled in to the loop that they were gonna look into Deshaun Watson," Ryan said, per NFL Network. "At that point, I said, OK, I understand, you know, but I also need to look into what I need to look into, and if this doesn't go down find out if this is probably still the best fit for me.
"And as that week went on, and I just kind of looked into — on my end —what might be the best possible landing spot, or what was best for myself and my family moving forward. As we did that research, to me, it became one spot."
Ryan's comments confirm reporting that the Falcons kept him in the loop in their pursuit of Watson. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported in March that head coach Arthur Smith approached Ryan when the team started an investigation into the sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations against Watson as part of its diligence in pursuit of the quarterback.
Meanwhile, per the report, the Colts reached out about pursuing Ryan. When Watson ultimately landed with the Cleveland Browns, the Falcons still checked in with Ryan to gauge his interest in a trade to the Colts. Per Breer, Ryan told the Falcons: "I’d love to look into it."
Ryan had a meeting with Colts brass that went well, and the the Falcons ultimately traded him Indianapolis for a third-round pick that they used over the weekend to select Western Kentucky linebacker DeAngelo Malone.
Ryan confirmed to Russilo that if not for Atlanta's pursuit of Watson, he believes he'd still be a Falcon.
"Had none of this gone down? There’s probably a chance — a pretty good chance,” Ryan said of remaining in Atlanta. “But it did, you know? So when it does, when the situations change and the circumstances change."
It's hard to see the trade for Ryan and the Colts as anything but a significant win. The Colts are built to win now and were in need of a quarterback after the failed Carson Wentz experiment. Ryan, meanwhile, leaves a rebuild for a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl run.
“I hope that we can ride that trend that’s been going on and make it work for us.”
Matt Ryan on Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford finding new teams and winning Super Bowls. pic.twitter.com/MVXKL09WL1
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 22, 2022
For the Falcons, it didn't make much sense to keep a soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback around for a rebuild. But they haven't exactly addressed their quarterback situation — unless you're a believer in the Marcus Mariota reclamation project. Atlanta declined to address the position in a draft largely viewed as weak at the position despite reported interest in now-Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett.
While the trade of a franchise stalwart didn't solve Atlanta's immediate issues, it did make sense for the Falcons. And has hard as theses kinds of breakups can be, it sounds like this one was more than amicable on both sides.