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Alabama in the Pros

Falcons QB Matt Ryan ‘very excited’ about playing with wide receiver Calvin Ridley

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan will enter his 11th season in the National Football League as a happy man and quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. While his twin boys – Marshall and Johnny – keep him busy at home with his wife, Sarah, the Falcons’ front office brought a brighter smile to Ryan’s face during the NFL Draft and over the weekend as he became the league’s highest-paid quarterback. 

Signing a five-year, $150 million deal with $100 million guaranteed would make anyone jump through hoops, however, adding another play-making wide receiver to the roster increases the former first-round pick’s odds of winning a Super Bowl. Ryan took to the podium on Monday to discuss his contract, excitement for the 2018 season and his thoughts on the picks Atlanta made. 

Since getting drafted in 2008, Roddy White and Julio Jones have been the two game-changing receivers for Ryan. Both players were important factors in helping their quarterback achieve 4,000 passing yards in seven straight seasons, dating back to 2011 when he had 4,177 yards. 

The duo saw Ryan through four NFL Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro selection (2016), an NFL Most Valuable Player honor (2016) and the league’s Offensive Player of the Year (2016).  

With White (free agent now) coming out University of Alabama at Birmingham and Jones hailing from University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), seeing a third big-play weapon donning #RiseUp is all the motivation Ryan needs. The Falcons provided him with that in selecting former Crimson Tide target Calvin Ridley with the 26th overall pick in the first round. 

“I guess I’m an honorary Alabama quarterback now,” Ryan said Monday on the team’s decision to take Ridley in the draft. “That state has been good to me. UAB was pretty good with Roddy White and Alabama has been very good too.” 

Although Tide fans look at Jones as the ambassador of Alabama football, Ridley carved out a productive career in Tuscaloosa. He snatched 224 career receptions for 2,781 yards with 19 touchdowns, en route to winning a pair of Southeastern Conference championships (2015-16) and College Football Playoff national titles in 2015 and 2017.

His route running prowess allows him to create separation with ease and putting him with Jones gives defenses more headaches. 

“I’m very excited about Calvin coming here,” Ryan said.  

“I think he will be really good for our organization, but I am excited about all the picks. I think our front office does such a good job of evaluating talent, along with our coaching staff in having a real clear picture of what fits the system that we have on both sides of the ball and how to draft for that. They did a really good job with that. I am excited about the team we have in 2018.” 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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