Soaring QB market complicates Falcons' plans to re-sign Ryan
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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons have entered the free-agency period facing financial constraints made more difficult by the league's soaring market for quarterbacks.
The Falcons addressed a need on Wednesday's first day of free agency by signing offensive guard Brandon Fusco, who started 16 games for San Francisco last season, to a three-year deal.
Fusco, who began his career with the Vikings, could immediately start at right guard.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff has expressed optimism about reaching a new deal with Ryan this
"I think it's not going to be that difficult of a negotiation, quite honestly," Dimitroff said after last season.
Now, however, the market has become more expensive.
Ryan is set to earn $19.25 million in 2018, and Drew Brees of the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints has just signed a new two-year deal reportedly worth $50 million . Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo, who has played in only 23 games in his career, last month signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal with San Francisco.
Dimitroff said at the NFL draft combine on March 2 the Garoppolo contract, worth a record $27.5 million per year, "complicates things."
"I think a lot of quarterbacks are honed in on what's going on," Dimitroff said.
Though Ryan couldn't match his 2016 production and the Falcons'
It would help the Falcons'
The team's available cap space was about $9 million after re-signing kicker Matt Bryant , offensive lineman Austin Pasztor and cornerbacks Leon McFadden and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
Atlanta released defensive end Derrick Shelby and announced plans to release tight end Levine Toilolo in cost-cutting moves.
Also, the Falcons this week placed second-round tenders on safety Ricardo Allen and guard Ben Garland, who are restricted free agents.
There wasn't financial room to re-sign all the looming free agents — especially with Ryan's new deal looming.
"Matt Ryan's situation of course has some play in dictating where we are and how creative we are in free agency and re-signing some of our other players," Dimitroff said.
"Anytime you're signing a top-tier quarterback you're going to be faced with complications. That's just the way it is."
The team's defensive front took a hit on Wednesday, the first day of free agency, when starters Adrian Clayborn, who led the team with 9
After signing Fusco, Atlanta's needs in free agency and the NFL draft include defensive line and tight end.
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