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Falcons Secure QB Ryan

  • Atlanta Falcons' owner Arthur Blank, left, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, second from left, head coach Mike Smith, second from right, and quarterback Matt Ryan are all smiles during a press conference at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. Ryan and the Falcons have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension on Thursday.  (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton )  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT

    Atlanta Falcons' owner Arthur Blank, left, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, second from left, head coach Mike Smith, second from right, and quarterback Matt Ryan are all smiles during a press conference at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. Ryan and the Falcons have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension on Thursday. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton ) MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT

  • Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass during practice at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass during practice at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Atlanta Falcons' owner Arthur Blank, left, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, second from left, head coach Mike Smith, second from right, and quarterback Matt Ryan are all smiles during a press conference at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. Ryan and the Falcons have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension on Thursday.  (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton )  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT
  • Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass during practice at NFL foorball training camp Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Flowery Branch, Ga. — Before hitting the practice field for the start of training camp, the Atlanta Falcons agreed to a five-year, $103.75 million extension with quarterback Matt Ryan on Thursday, according to the Falcons.

The team didn’t want Ryan’s deal to be a distraction. The deal provides for $59 million in guaranteed money and he now has a new money average of $20.75 million per year.

“Matt has been important part of that process (of turning around the franchise) over the last five years,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have had a great head coach and a great general manager. They’ve both been a big, big part of our success. Matt, as our franchise quarterback and the first player ever drafted by (head coach Mike Smith) and Thomas (Dimitroff) in 2008, he’s a huge part of that.

“We look forward to Matt being an Atlanta Falcon for the rest of his career. But we’ve had a lot of players, a lot of coaches and a lot of staff that have contributed to that success over the last five years. Matt has been an important part of that.”

Ryan signed his original six-year, $72 million deal on May 20, 2008, and was an instant hit. A total of $34.75 million of that deal was guaranteed.

Before signing Ryan, first-round pick Desmond Trufant and seveneth-round pick Sean Renfree, the Falcons were $6.29 million under the $122.7 million salary cap, according to NFLPA documents.

Ryan started the opening game of his rookie season and his first pass in the NFL went for a 62-yard touchdown reception by Michael Jenkins. The Falcons would go on to defeat the Detroit Lions 34-21 at the Georgia Dome on Sept. 7, 2008.

With Ryan learning the ropes and running back Michael Turner powering the offense, the Falcons posted an improbable 11-5 record and reached the playoffs, where they were upset by the Arizona Cardinals.

Ryan fueled a rapid turnaround from the angst-filled 2007 season, which saw former quarterback Michael Vick go to prison on federal dog-fighting charges and head coach Bobby Petrino quit before the season was completed.

Ryan suffered a turf toe injury in 2009 and missed two games. The Falcons finished 9-7, posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.

In 2010, Ryan guided the Falcons to a 13-3 mark, the NFC South title and the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. However, the Falcons were routed in the playoffs by the Green Bay Packers, who went on to claim the Super Bowl title. Ryan made the Pro Bowl team for the first time.

After the 2011 lockout ended, the Falcons could never get rolling and finished with an 11-5 record. They were body-slammed by the New York Giants in the wild-card round of playoffs, 24-2.

Last season, Ryan guided the Falcons to an 8-0 start on their way to a 13-3 regular-season mark and the NFC South title. After the defense collapsed in the NFC divisional round, Ryan needed to rally the team in the final minute to a 30-28 win over Seattle.

The team’s hope for the Super Bowl came up short in the NFC championship game after another collapse by the defense. The 49ers prevailed 28-24 after stopping the Falcons on the 10-yard line with 1:13 left to play.

After notching a playoff win, Ryan’s credibility around the league has grown exponentially.

After not even being listed in 2012, Ryan shot all the way up to the 17th spot on The Top 100 Players of 2013 list on the NFL Network. This is the third consecutive year current NFL players have voted to determine the top 100 players in the NFL.

“You can see him winning a Super Bowl eventually,” Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said of Ryan. “If you look at his regular season numbers, he has been phenomenal.”

While guiding the Falcons to five straight winning seasons and four trips to the playoffs, Ryan has started to re-write the team’s record book.

In 2012, he set single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,719), pass attempts (615), completions (422), touchdown passes (32) and 300-yard games (7) en route to his second career Pro Bowl selection.

Ryan’s 56 career wins are the most by any quarterback in his first five seasons in NFL history.

With another stellar season, Ryan is set to become the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.

Ryan needs 27 more touchdowns passes to tie Steve Bartkowski’s mark of 154. Ryan’s thrown 32, 29 and 28 touchdowns passes in each of the past three seasons.

Bartkowski was the first player selected in the 1975 draft. He played for the Falcons 1975 to 1986 and guided the team to the playoffs three times.

“Certainly, it’s great to be in company with Bart,” Ryan said recently. “He was obviously an awesome player in his time. He’s probably the premier quarterback to have ever played here in Atlanta. But he’s also a great guy and I’ve gotten to know him well.” Ryan was the third player and first quarterback taken in the 2008 draft. Sixteen picks later, the Baltimore Ravens selected Joe Flacco.

Both have had fine starts to their careers, but now that Flacco has won a Super Bowl and landed a six-year, $120.6 million contract, the stage was set for Ryan to join him in the $100 million club.

While Ryan attributes a great deal of his success to the team surrounding him with offensive weapons like wide receiver Roddy White, Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner.

“As a quarterback, you love having guys around you,” Ryan said recently. “I’ve said it for a long time, it’s just my job to try and get the ball in their hands when they are in position to make a play. When you have guys on the outside who can do that, it’s a lot of fun.” Falcons coach Mike Smith still believes that Ryan can improve.

“I think the arrow is still going up,” Smith said. “Matt was very accurate throwing the ball. Last year, he led the league in completion percentage. To me, the (two) keys are the decision-making and accuracy. Matt is excellent in both of those areas. The Falcons are elated that Ryan has a solid work ethic.

“I continue to see Matt being a better football player than he was last year,” Smith said. “I don’t even think we’ve seen nearly what he’s capable of doing.” Ryan is widely respected by his teammates.

“Matt Ryan, the call him Matty Ice for a reason,” Jones said. “He doesn’t get frustrated. We never look at the scoreboard until it says zero-zero. We always feel like we have a chance.” Jones, who started to blossom last season and was selected to the Pro Bowl, is a big fan of the quarterback.

“He’s going to give you an opportunity,” Jones said. “He feels like we are the best receivers in the league and he’s going to give us an opportunity. He’s going to throw the ball up there and see what we can do.” As he’s grown into the position, Ryan had taken on more of a leadership role. He’s been taught the ropes by former center Todd McClure, who retired over the offseason.

“He always had control over the huddle and the play when he’s out there, but he’s doing it even more now,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “He’s letting the coach know what he thinks and what he sees. That’s what you see the guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton (Manning) and Aaron Rodgers do and they have become successful. I think Matt Ryan is on his way.” Under Blank’s ownership, the franchise has not been afraid to spend cash.

Back in 2004, he made Vick the highest-paid player in the league with a 10-year $130 million contract.

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©2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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FALCONS

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