FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Matt Ryan pulled out his secret weapons to seal the five-year contract extension that made him the NFLs highest-paid player.
Ryan brought his infant twin boys, Marshall and John, to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blanks office on Friday, when the deal was signed.
”Tough negotiators,” a smiling Ryan said Monday.
The twins, born on April 8 following a complicated pregnancy for Ryans wife, Sarah, and the new contract are reasons for Ryan to have an optimistic new focus on his future.
The extension announced on Thursday is worth at least $100 million , a league record, and could be worth as much as $150 million.
Ryan has been the figurehead of the Falcons during their most successful 10-year run in franchise history. He says he sees the contract as an incentive for the future instead of a reward for leading the team to six playoff seasons, including the Super Bowl run in 2016, when he was named NFL MVP.
”Weve had some really good teams,” Ryan said. ”But I think the best is in front of us and thats what has me so excited about my future here and our future as an organization, that we have a lot of really good pieces in place.”
Ryan said when he was drafted in 2008 it was his hope ”to be the quarterback that a franchise leans on for a long time, 15, 20 years. Thats kind of still where my head is at.”
Before the extension, Ryan, who turns 33 on May 17, could have been a free agent after the 2018 season.
The threat of Ryan entering free agency could have been the biggest story of training camp. That was a distraction Ryan and the Falcons were eager to avoid.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff described the extension as ”our primary focus this offseason.”
Now Ryan can focus on football instead of finances as he prepares for the 2018 season.
”Im happy with the timing of it,” Ryan said. ”I think the organization is very happy with the timing of it. Certainly when we get back to training camp its 100 percent about football. … I always felt confident it was going to get done in a smooth way and in a timely manner and I feel like it did.”
There was little question the Falcons would keep Ryan, who has helped to reshape the perception of the franchise.
Before the Ryan era, the Falcons had only eight playoff seasons in 42 years, and none in back-to-back years. With Ryan, the Falcons have made the playoffs in six of 10 years, including the 2016 Super Bowl run.
The contract extension brings continued stability for an offense that also returns wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Dimitroff gave the offense a boost by making wide receiver Calvin Ridley its first-round draft pick last month.
Like Jones, Ridley is from Alabama.
”I guess Im an honorary Alabama quarterback now,” Ryan said. ”… Im very excited about Calvin coming here.”
Ryans new deal topped the total compensation of the $84 million, three-year guaranteed deal that quarterback Kirk Cousins received from the Minnesota Vikings.
Someday, Ryan will be able to show his twins a photo taken by the Falcons of the day they were in the room when he signed the extension.
”It was a special day for our family,” he said. ”I was excited that they were there. That will always be a great memory for us but also a really cool picture for me to be able to show them when they get older. They wont remember it, but Ill tell them I was OK at one point.”
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