FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan is staying put as the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback.
Ryan, entering his sixth year as the Falcons’ starting quarterback, agreed to a five-year contract extension Thursday afternoon. The deal is worth $103.75 million — $59 million guaranteed — an average of $20.75 million per year, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
“It is an opportunity to kind of continue my career in a place that I call home, a city that I love,” Ryan said in a post-practice press conference Thursday afternoon. “I think we have the best fans in the league, and they have been so receptive to my wife Sarah and I since we came down here in 2008.”
Across the first three years of the extension, Ryan, who would have become a free agent at the end of this season, will make $63 million, the most of any NFL quarterback.
“I think we are all glad we didn’t go with a defensive tackle with the third pick in the first round back in 2008,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We are very excited to have Matt on board for many years to come.”
Ryan signed a six-year, $72 million deal as a rookie in 2008, a contract that is set to end at the end of the season. Since then, he has led Atlanta to five straight winning seasons and playoff appearances in four of those five seasons.
Ryan has the third highest winning percentage among NFL quarterbacks since 2008, leading the Falcons to a 56-21 record. The 28-year-old has also garnered the nickname Matty Ice, referring to his 22 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, including in the postseason.
“Matt has done some wonderful things as a football player since he got here in 2008,” head coach Mike Smith said. “He is a big reason for the success that we have had. He has made me a better football coach, that is for sure. I look forward to working with him for a long, long time.”
The Falcons have been trying to sign Ryan to an extension for some time, putting an emphasis on completing the deal before the start of training camp.
Pressure to complete the extension progressed after the Baltimore Ravens locked up Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to a five-year, $120 million extension earlier this year, and after Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford each signed extensions earlier as well.
Although the deal was completed on the first day of training camp, and not before, neither Ryan nor Falcons’ management, including Dimitroff, feared the deal wouldn’t get done.
“I was confident that it was going to get done,” Ryan said. “It is nice to have this done and start worrying about the things that are important. I didn’t worry about it, stress about it, too much. But it is always something that is being asked or something you have to talk about.
“So it is nice to have it done, and really now all my focus, and collectively all of our focus, can be on a championship.”
While he has yet to win a Super Bowl — he has just one playoff victory in his five seasons — Ryan is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and the Falcons wanted to lock him into an extended contract that would keep him in a Falcons uniform for some time.
With the extension, Ryan is guaranteed to be in a Falcons uniform through the 2018 season. He will be 34 years old when the new contract expires.
“We’ve watched Matt mature,” owner Arthur Blank said. “If you look at his record the last five years, 56 wins in the first five years is the most in NFL history.
“In every sense of the word, in every definition, Matt is a franchise quarterback. Off the field, he is as much of a leader as he is on it.”
Now that the contract is signed and behind him, Ryan says he can get back to focusing on football and helping lead the Falcons to their first-ever Super Bowl victory.
“My goal and my mindset has been the same since 2008. It is about winning championships and it is about getting rings,” Ryan said. “I am just happy that I am going to have the opportunity to do that here.”
In five seasons, Ryan has 18,957 yards passing with 127 touchdowns and 60 interceptions. He led the Falcons to the NFC Championship game last season, where the Falcons narrowly fell to the San Francisco 49ers.
The 2012 season was Ryan’s best in the NFL. He set a single-season franchise record for passing yards (4,719), pass attempts (615), completions (422), touchdowns (32) and 300-yard games (7), en route to a second straight Pro Bowl appearance. He also led the NFL in completion percentage (68.6).
News of the Thursday’s contract extension came less than 30 minutes before the Falcons were scheduled to take the field for an afternoon practice, their first of training camp.
Ryan said he was happy to get on the field, and that he thought the Falcons had a good first day.
“When we got out there, it was great to get out there and get to work. I felt like we had a very productive first day,” Ryan said. “You never know how that first day of camp is going to do and I thought today was extremely productive.”
More importantely, his teammates were glad to know he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“I couldn’t be happier for him. The franchise deserves him. I know everyone is happy that it got done, and he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore,” said veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez. “He can go out there and let it rip. It was just the beginning from what you saw last year. He’s going to to keep building on it, and I anticipate him getting even better now that he has that deal out of his mind.”