National Football League
What would signing QB Kirk Cousins do for Falcons' playoff chances?
National Football League

What would signing QB Kirk Cousins do for Falcons' playoff chances?

Updated Mar. 7, 2024 4:24 p.m. ET

The start of free agency is still a week away, so everything is still speculation at this point. But as potential major headlines go, this would be a huge one: What would signing quarterback Kirk Cousins do for the Atlanta Falcons?

Cousins, generally regarded as the top quarterback available in this free-agent class, has spent the past six years with the Vikings but is potentially signing elsewhere. Before his 2023 season was cut short by an Achilles injury, Cousins had thrown for at least 4,000 yards in seven of the previous eight seasons.

He has been linked as a possible match for the Falcons, with Pro Football Talk going so far as to report "very credible indications that Kirk Cousins is planning a potential move of his family from Minnesota to Atlanta." PFT also reported that Cousins had talked to Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts about getting jersey No. 8, to which Pitts wrote on Twitter: "This actually is funny ... you guys come up with anything."

Cousins, who will turn 36 in August, would be a massive investment for the Falcons, their largest in the post-Matt Ryan era. Cousins made $35 million last season, and a new deal might be closer to $40 million a year by many projections. The Falcons have about $41 million in cap space as it stands, so a Cousins contract would likely have them restructuring other deals for greater cap flexibility.


Such a move, however, would be the opposite of what the Falcons did last season, when they didn't pursue a major free agent quarterback, didn't get involved in trying to trade for Lamar Jackson or moving up in the draft for the top options there. They stood pat with unheralded quarterback Desmond Ridder, and a lackluster passing game was part of why they finished 7-10 for a third year in a row, leading to Arthur Smith's firing and Raheem Morris arriving as the new head coach.

Getting Cousins would be a major boost to the Falcons' hopes of ending a six-year playoff drought, upgrading an offense that ranked 22nd in passing yards and 27th in passer rating last season. Atlanta has put three straight top-10 draft picks into offensive weapons — Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson — and Cousins would put the offense in position to make better use of that talent.

In theory, the Falcons should be a comfortable system fit for Cousins, as Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell was the Rams' offensive coordinator in 2020-21, and new Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson was a Rams assistant from 2019-23, overlapping with O'Connell and working under him there. As many have pointed out, Cousins' wife, Julie, grew up in the Atlanta suburbs and her parents still live there, so there's a family presence already in the area.

Significant spending on a 35-year-old coming off a major injury is a risk, but his recovery from Achilles surgery appears to be going well. He posted video last week of him dropping back and throwing in an indoor workout, and he said in January that the rehab has been "a positive experience," with optimism he could make a full recovery for the upcoming season.

Signing Cousins would mean a shift from a run-first offense to more passing, and the Falcons might want to upgrade their depth at receiver, where they had little contribution besides London last year. Backups Mack Hollins, Van Jefferson and Scotty Miller are all free agents, so Atlanta will almost certainly address the position both in free agency and in the draft, where this class of receivers is talented and deep.

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Adding Cousins to Atlanta would have much the same feel as the Saints adding Derek Carr a year ago. Both are prolific, veteran passers with limited playoff success. Carr made the playoffs only once in nine years with the Raiders, losing that game. Last season, the Saints improved to 9-8 with Carr at quarterback, tying for the best record in the division but losing the title in a tiebreaker to the Bucs.

Cousins is just 1-3 in his playoff career. He led Minnesota to a 13-4 record in 2022, only to lose the team's playoff opener to the Giants. Postseason record aside, Cousins would at least put the Falcons in position to be playoff contenders again.

He isn't the only option for the Falcons as they search for an upgrade at quarterback. They've been mentioned as a possible trade partner for the Bears with Justin Fields, and could also package draft picks to move up from No. 8 for one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class.

But signing Cousins is an attractive option. Will it happen? That's a question for next week. Free agents may begin talking to new teams on Monday, and can start signing with new teams next Wednesday, with many of the league's biggest free agents getting deals in the first 24 hours. 

If Cousins and the Falcons are part of that, they'll have a huge upgrade at quarterback in addition to a new coach in their offseason makeover, two central factors in any team's overall success.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports' NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.


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