Flowery Branch — Matt Ryan spoke almost in hushed tones whenever the issue of a new contract came up on Tuesday at OTAs.
Although the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback is entering the final season of his six-year, $66 million rookie deal, he’s content to let his contract negotiations play out behind the scenes and confident that a new agreement will get worked out in due time.
“You know what, I leave that to my agents and the front office,” Ryan said. “Those guys will get that stuff done.”
Ryan is in line to join a growing list of NFL signal callers who have received deals topping the $100-million mark.
Joe Flacco, selected 15 spots behind Ryan in the 2008 NFL Draft, received a record six-year, $120.6 million contract in March after leading the Baltimore Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo signed a six-year, $108 million agreement not long afterward, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was awarded a five-year, $110 million deal later in the spring.
Ryan, meanwhile, led the Falcons to a 13-3 record last season and an appearance in the NFC Championship game. He finished fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating (99.1), passing yards (4,719) and passing touchdowns (32).
Ryan insists it’s merely his job to get the football to the Falcons’ talented playmakers, and he praised his teammates for their work in OTAs.
“There’s been great energy,” Ryan said. “I think some of the new guys that are here add to those energy levels.
“All in all, l I think guys have worked really hard. We’ve had great turnouts, everybody’s been here for the most part, and we’ve been able to get some really good work done.”
Cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Falcons’ first-round draft pick, made his debut at OTAs on Tuesday after finishing the course work necessary to earn his degree at the University of Washington.
While Trufant’s athleticism and mobility made an early impression on Ryan, the quarterback is more focused on the new faces he’ll be working with on the offensive side of the ball. Among the Falcons’ offseason additions is former St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson, who leads all active players with 10,135 career rushing yards.
Jackson replaces five-year starter Michael Turner and gives the Falcons more versatility in the backfield.
“Steven Jackson is a leader,” Ryan said. “He’s picked up a lot of stuff really, really quick and he’s been dedicated. He’s one of the few guys who has called me when he’s not here and is picking my brain about certain things we’re doing, and I think that says a lot about him.”
The Falcons will also feature new additions on the offensive line. Center Todd McClure retired in March after spending his entire 13-year career in Atlanta, and the team released right tackle Tyson Clabo in April.
“It’s fun to watch the offensive line guys go out and compete,” head coach Mike Smith said, “because we’re really trying to solidify who those seven guys are going to be on game day and who the nine guys are going to be on the roster.”
Peter Konz, the Falcons’ second-round draft pick in 2012, is in line to take over for McClure at center. Ryan and Konz may not have logged a lot of time together in games, but the two developed a solid rapport during practice last season.
“I think Peter has done a great job working in at center this year trying to replace Todd,” Ryan said.
“He’s a mature guy for a young player. He takes it really seriously, he’s a really hard worker and he’s extremely smart — those are all qualities you really want from your center.”
Maturity will be an important characteristic not only for Konz, but many of the Falcons’ young players as they step into key roles on a team that fell just one game short of a Super Bowl appearance last season.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez put off retirement plans for another year to chase a ring one more time, and the Falcons will likely be among the preseason favorites to go all the way this season.
Ryan hopes the work that he and his teammates are putting in now will pay off when it counts.
“Today was practice number seven in OTAs, and I think we’ve been really productive,” Ryan said.
“Each day is kind of a different emphasis and today we worked some of the low red (zone) stuff. It’s an area where we were pretty good last year, but I feel like we could be better.
“It’s good to get that work this time of year and work on some of the things we need to be better during the season next year.