Colts owner Jim Irsay wants Matt Ryan as long-term quarterback, not placeholder: ‘A three-year thing’

Eight teams drafted a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, but one that did not was Indianapolis, which is perfectly happy to work with its newly signed veteran quarterback for the foreseeable future.

The Indianapolis Colts traded for quarterback Matt Ryan last month, and Colts owner Jim Irsay said Saturday after the draft that Indianapolis is not looking at Ryan as simply a placeholder until someone younger and better comes along — he wants Ryan to actually be a multi-year starter for the franchise.

“We hope Matt can be here for four years, maybe,” Irsay said, per ESPN. “We certainly have our radar out for a young guy that can be the long-term future.”

The Colts could use some stability at the quarterback position after the last few years, in which there have been six different players spending time under center over five seasons. In fact, the Colts are the only team in NFL history to have a different QB start 15-plus games in four consecutive seasons, per NFL Research.

Most recently, Indianapolis tried to create some stability at the position by trading for former No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz, hoping that he could lead the Colts into a new era of success.

But the Colts missed the playoffs in 2021, going 9-8 and finishing the season with an embarrassing loss to the 3-14 Jaguars that eliminated them from playoff contention, and a month later Wentz was on the move, traded to the Washington Commanders. It appeared there was no love lost from Colts management, as Irsay was quoted as saying that trading for Wentz was a “mistake” that the franchise had to move away from.

With Wentz gone, the Colts found a golden opportunity in Ryan. When the Falcons appeared to be courting Deshaun Watson in March, it indicated that Atlanta was willing to move on from its14-year starter, and Indianapolis took advantage. While Watson eventually signed with the Browns, the Colts were still able to trade a 2022 third-round pick to the Falcons for Ryan.

On the surface, the move to acquire Ryan might appear similar to the signing of quarterback Philip Rivers in 2020, when the veteran received a one-year deal to be the quarterback just until Indianapolis found its long-term answer for the position. But Irsay said that unlike with Rivers, the Colts went into this trade wanting Ryan to be the starter for more than just a season.

“Matt is different than Philip, this is definitely different than that,” Irsay said. “It’s not drafting Andrew Luck, but it’s different than Philip. We knew Philip was going to be a one-year sort of thing and we view this as very possibly a three-year thing. Who knows. It’s hard to put a number on it.”

And the Colts already believe putting their trust in Ryan as a long-term option was a good choice, as Ryan has quickly shown his experience and skill in his short time with the team. Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said during offseason workouts that Ryan has been “damn near coach in himself,” and Irsay echoed that praise on Saturday.

“I can’t say enough about Matt Ryan,” Irsay said. “There’s no way I can sit here and explain to you, unless you look at [general manager] Chris [Ballard] and [coach] Frank [Reich] and different people in this organization eyes and see the difference that goes on right now because of Matt Ryan being in this building. His professionalism, his stature still at 36 and coming in here and we really are fortunate.”

And with Ryan now in line to continue running plays for Indianapolis for the next few years, the Colts will have the security they’ve so desperately needed while they wait to find their next franchise QB.

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