What’s next for Matt Ryan? Three potential landing spots if Colts part ways with veteran QB before 2022 deadline

Matt Ryan has been out as Colts quarterback just seven games into his Indianapolis career. Barring an injury to new starter Sam Ehlinger or veteran backup Nick Foles, Ryan likely has played his last shot in blue as well. Trying and failing to break out of their annual QB carousel, the Colts would risk owing up to $17 million of Ryan’s remaining contract by getting him back on the field — he has injury guarantees built into his deal — but could to save $18 million to $29 million by releasing or trading him in 2023.

So what happens next for the longtime Falcons QB? Probably nothing. Ehlinger will start, allowing coach Frank Reich to experiment with a more mobile signal-caller with his own job potentially on the line. Foles will be the No. 2. And Ryan will play on the sidelines, reserved for the scenario where Indy stumbles into the playoff picture late in the season and, due to injury or performance, gets a chance at winter redemption. Regardless, odds are he’ll be taken out after the season, either via trade, permanent release or mutual separation via retirement.

In case Ryan and/or the Colts aren’t willing to wait and prefer an immediate deal a la Donovan McNabb with the Vikings in 2011, here’s a look at three teams that might be interested:

At this point, Bill Belichick is hardly courting QB drama, refusing to announce either Mack Jones or rookie Bailey Zappé as his starter a day after using both in an ugly home loss to the Bears. Jones is just a year away from entering as the No. 15 overall draft pick, and Zappé has flashed energy as his fill-in, but neither youngster looks too comfortable entering the second half of 2022. If Belichick is desperate to save season in a tough AFC East, perhaps he would welcome the one-time Super Bowl-beating star. After all, nobody likes to resurrect veterans like him. Ryan, meanwhile, has experience at Boston College, wouldn’t hinder the long-term future of Jones or Zappé, and could likely rely on their ground game.

Kyle Shanahan had no problem touting two “starters” at QB when he welcomed back Jimmy Garoppolo while Trey Lance prepared to “take over” at center, so why not three? With Lance now out until 2023, the 49ers’ only insurance behind injury-prone Garoppolo is rookie Brock Purdy. Ryan, meanwhile, had two of his best years under Shanahan in Atlanta. If San Francisco is all in on the NFC West and a playoff run, as the Christian McCaffrey trade suggests, they could likely welcome Ryan as the new No. 2, giving the veteran the ability to come off the bench in emergencies down the stretch . Then, depending on how things pan out, they’ll have a trifecta of potential starters or trade chips by 2023.

Off to a surprising 5-2 start with a playoff bid on the horizon, the Jets have answered questions at nearly every position except the most important one, where 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson has been deployed as little more than a tough ground game guard . As they inch ever closer to competing, will general manager Joe Douglas, who apparently invested in 2022 after dealing James Robinson, settle for entering the dance with just Joe Flacco behind Wilson, who already was injured twice in two NFL seasons? Adding Ryan might bring more drama to a team that doesn’t need it, but there are connections here, too: In addition to being from nearby Philly, Ryan worked with Jets offensive coordinator Matt Lafleur in Atlanta, and Jets coach Robert Saleh would have good information on the veteran from his days under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.

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