Falcons’ $180 million QB among PFF’s ‘boom-or-bust’ free agents

NFL: OCT 29 Vikings at Packers

The Falcons made the biggest splash of the offseason when they inked Kirk Cousins to a $180 million deal over four years.

It was the most expensive free agent contract handed out, and it represented the most dramatic improvement at the most important position in sports.

The Bears, Commanders, Patriots, Steelers, Broncos, Raiders, and Vikings have also experienced quarterback turnover, some for the better and some for the worse. However, none of them experienced the kind of immediate improvement that the Falcons did.

It’s not a deal without risk, though. Cousins is 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury. There’s certainly a chance the contract will be one the Falcons regret, but I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘boom-or-bust’ deal like Pro Football Focus did.

Cousins has actually been a remarkably consistent quarterback in the NFL since signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. He posted PFF grades ranging between 77.4 and 88.2 while averaging between 7.1 and 8.3 yards per attempt. Additionally, his adjusted completion rate was at least 76.0% every season. For a team like Atlanta with the core of a good team already in place, he made perfect sense as effectively the only high-caliber veteran option available this offseason.

You could argue that Minnesota was right to draw a financial line in the sand and refuse to cross it. As good as Cousins has been, the Vikings were never closer to the Super Bowl with him than they were the season before his arrival when Case Keenum was the quarterback. He wasn’t able to elevate the team enough, and his salary restricted the team from maintaining a championship-caliber roster around him. It was a catch-22, but that wouldn’t be a free-agent bust.

The bust potential comes from his age (36 years old before the season begins), and the fact that he is coming off an Achilles tear suffered last season. Quarterbacks are lasting longer than ever, and Cousins has been known to take care of his body very well, but it would be crazy not to acknowledge that risk.

It is crazy not to acknowledge the risk associated with signing a 36 year old quarterback coming off an Achilles injury. However, it’s not a great risk, as I see it.

This is the first injury and surgery of Cousins’ entire career. Moreover, he’s not some mobile or even dual-threat quarterback. He’s virtually a statue in the pocket.

Secondly, a player like Kirk Cousins, who averaged around 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns in four seasons prior to 2023, raises the floor of a team like the Falcons. Even his average play is a tremendous improvement from what the Falcons had last year or in any year with Terry Fontenot as general manager.

Debates should begin and end about what Cousins does for the Falcons Super Bowl odds. With Cousins in the fold, the Falcons actually have a shot at the Lombardi because they wouldn’t be making the postseason with Desmond Ridder.

Moreover, his lack of postseason success shouldn’t be attributed to his play alone. Cousins does own a 1-4 playoff record, but in the first appearance, he only threw ten times, completing three passes for 31 yards.

In the other four contests, he averaged 254 yards and 69% passing with five total touchdowns and one interception, good for a 96.3 passer rating. I’d hardly call that underperforming, especially considering the other quarterbacks’ playoff résumés in the NFC.

I just don’t think characterizing Kirk Cousins’ contract with the Falcons as a boom-or-bust deal is accurate. There’s a much better chance that Cousins helps the Falcons to some result other than boom (a Super Bowl?) or bust (missing the playoffs, etc.)

Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

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