NFL

Colts acquire Matt Ryan in trade with Falcons

By Sports Desk March 21, 2022

The Indianapolis Colts hope they have found the quarterback that can help them contend in the AFC, after striking a deal with the Atlanta Falcons for Matt Ryan.

According to multiple reports, the Colts will send a third-round pick to the Falcons in exchange for the 2016 MVP.

It comes after the Colts parted with Carson Wentz, whom they acquired last year, after just one season, trading him to the Washington Commanders in a deal that saw the two franchises swap second-round picks and Indianapolis acquire a pair of third-rounders.

The Colts are viewed by many as having a roster ready to challenge for a deep playoff run, yet their inability to find an answer at quarterback following Andrew Luck's shock retirement in 2019 has prevented Indianapolis from reaching such heights.

Philip Rivers helped them to the playoffs in the 2020 season but retired after one year with Indianapolis. It was hoped Wentz's past relationship with Colts head coach Frank Reich would revitalise his career, yet a dismal end to the 2021 campaign in which they missed the playoffs after a blowout loss to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 helped convince Indianapolis to move on swiftly.

Ryan appears to have a much better chance of proving to be the solution for the Colts. Though Atlanta missed the playoffs last year with a 7-10 record, Ryan completed 67 per cent of his passes, his highest completion rate since 2018, for 3,968 yards and 20 touchdowns. He did, however, throw 12 interceptions.

He remains a very accurate quarterback, delivering a well-thrown ball on 80.7 per cent of his throws in 2021, according to Stats Perform data, tied for the sixth-best rate among QBs with at least 200 attempts.

No player in the NFL has thrown for more passing yards than Ryan's 59,735 since he entered the NFL as a first-round pick of the Falcons in 2008.

Prior to 2021, Ryan threw for 4,000 yards in 10 consecutive seasons, the high point coming in 2016 when he led the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

He threw for a career-high 4,944 receiving yards, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

However, that season ended in bitter defeat as the Falcons gave up a 28-3 lead in their Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots. The Falcons have won just one playoff game since.

Given his achievements, a third-round pick seems like scant compensation for the 36-year-old, with the Falcons agreeing to a trade that will see them incur the largest dead cap hit in NFL history ($40.52million).

The Falcons, who decided against taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in last year's draft, are believed to be interested in signing former second overall pick Marcus Mariota as an immediate replacement for Ryan. Malik Willis, one of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 class, was born in Atlanta and could be a developmental option for the Falcons with the eighth pick in this year's draft.

Atlanta had been interested in Deshaun Watson even before dealing Ryan, but he instead joined the Cleveland Browns in a trade with the Houston Texans.

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    Nick Kyrgios acknowledged having his "own tactics" after overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas in a dramatic, ill-tempered affair to reach Wimbledon's last 16.

    Kyrgios produced an outstanding display to rally after losing the first set on No. 1 Court, eventually prevailing 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (9-7) in an incident-filled match.

    The enigmatic star set the tone with an incredible outburst after a frustrated Tsitsipas struck a ball into the crowd at the end of the second set, narrowly missing a spectator.

    The Australian immediately called for his opponent to be defaulted, recalling Novak Djokovic's contentious exit from the 2020 US Open after he had accidentally hit a line judge in frustration after dropping a game.

    Kyrgios could be heard calling the umpire a "disgrace", and then, after Tsitsipas had been let off with a warning, the unseeded talent asked: "Are you dumb?"

    He then hit out at the umpire, yelling: "What are you talking about? Novak hit someone, it is the same, it happened right there. 

    "Bring out more supervisors, I'm not done. You can bring them all out, I don't care. I'm not playing until we get to the bottom of it. 

    "What happened to Novak when he hit the ball into a girl? She was injured. You can't hit a ball into the crowd and hit someone and not get defaulted."

    But the drama was far from done as Tsitsipas flew into a rage of his own early in the third, having been hit with a point deduction for wildly firing another ball towards the crowd – but hitting the scoreboard instead – after Kyrgios produced a mischievous underarm serve when holding to love.

    The fourth seed's frustration was evident as he then appeared to hit a couple of shots right at Kyrgios to boos from spectators, who vociferously cheered every point for the Australian.

    But after producing some outstanding tennis to end the aggravated Tsitsipas' hopes of winning a first grand slam title, Kyrgios said he had no problems with the Greek, whom he played doubles with at Wimbledon in 2019.

    "Honestly, it was a hell of an atmosphere, an amazing match, I honestly felt like the favourite coming in; I played him a couple of weeks ago, but I knew it was going to be a tough match," he said.

    "He's a hell of a player, I had my own tactics out there – he knows how to play me, he's beaten me once, and obviously I've had success, so it was a hell of a match.

    "I'm just super happy to be through, he was getting frustrated at times and it's a frustrating sport, that's for sure. I know you all think you can play, but it's very frustrating, whatever happens on the court, I love him."

    Kyrgios now holds a 4-1 head-to-head lead over Tsitsipas, having also got the better of the world number five on the grass at the Halle Open earlier this month.

    The 27-year-old also previously courted controversy during his run to the fourth round when he spat in the direction of a "disrespectful" fan during his first-round win over Paul Jubb.

    But Kyrgios claimed his antics serve to drive interest in the sport, adding: "It's amazing, everywhere I go I seem to have full stadiums.

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    Indeed, it was hard not to feel sorry for Sonego – and he did appear to have the sympathy of the Centre Court crowd – as Nadal's strokes painted pretty patterns around him.

    The Spaniard remarkably dropped only two points on his own serve in the first set – both to double-faults. It was a similar story in Sonego's service games, too, as he held at the first attempt but then lost the next nine in succession.

    Such was Nadal's superiority a relieved Sonego lifted his arms to salute the crowd as he finally held serve in the fifth game of the second and was given a generous cheer.

    That small victory scarcely slowed Nadal, who wrapped up the second on his own serve and then blasted Sonego away in the opening game of the third to break once again.

    Sonego soon found a more effective way to hold up his opponent, however, appealing at length for the Centre Court roof to be closed and eventually succeeding after a brave hold and a handful of points on Nadal's serve informed officials he was capable of dragging the contest out under fading light.

    So it briefly proved, as Nadal – perhaps irked by the delay – lost his composure and was broken to love after Sonego made a noise as he approached the ball; Nadal deemed the umpire an unnecessary middle man and called Sonego over for a word, clearly upsetting the Italian.

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    This was Sonego's first meeting with Nadal, and he might have picked a better time to face this fiercely focused great. The 22-time major champion has now won 10 third-round Wimbledon matches in a row, including the past four without dropping a set. Sonego had a hard enough time merely winning a game for much of the match.

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    Sonego – 19/17

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    Sonego – 2/2

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    Sonego – 1/1

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    De Jong, who emerged as one of European football's hottest properties under Erik ten Hag at Ajax before joining Barca in 2019, has been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford since his former boss took over at United.

    The Netherlands international said in May that his preference would be to remain at Camp Nou, which he labelled his "dream club", but the Blaugrana's financial difficulties have given rise to speculation he could depart.

    Barcelona's desire to recruit wantaway Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has only amplified such rumours, but Laporta believes De Jong is happy at the club and could stay – if an agreement over his salary can be reached.

    "Frenkie de Jong is a Barca player and is recognised as one of the best players in the world," Laporta told reporters.

    "We know of clubs that want him, not only United, and we have no intention of selling him. The player, I get the impression, wants to stay. 

    "He is comfortable at Barca and I will do what is in my power so that Frenkie stays here, but it is also a salary issue and it would have to be adjusted.

    "What is certain is that the salary levels of some players are not in line with the salary levels that the board of directors that I have the privilege of presiding over have set."

     

    De Jong made 47 appearances for Barcelona during the 2021-22 season, scoring four goals and boasting the best passing accuracy (91.18 per cent) of any of the club's midfielders to play at least 20 games in all competitions.

    Laporta refused to be drawn on Barcelona's interest in Lewandowski, however, only affirming his respect for the Poland international's current club. 

    "He is a Bayern player," he said of the striker, who plundered 50 goals for the Bundesliga champions last season. 

    "Everyone knows that he is a great player, but I would prefer to be reserved because he is a Bayern player. 

    "We know that he has publicly stated that he wants to come to Barca and we are very flattered, but we have respect for Bayern Munich, which is one of the best clubs in the world. Between clubs, we respect each other."

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