Falcons a legitimate Super Bowl contender following Kirk Cousins signing?

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When the offseason kicked off, a lot of people described the Falcons as a talented yet underachieving roster or the proverbial quarterback away.

Terry Fontenot and Raheem Morris acknowledged as much too, not shying away from expectations. It ended with Atlanta bidding whatever it took to land Kirk Cousins, inking the veteran signal caller to a four-year deal worth $180 million.

Cousins was the best option on the market, and it gives the Falcons their best quarterback since Matt Ryan was roaming the Georgia Dome. He’s expected to help Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts realize their full potential thanks to a formidable offensive line as well as a highly touted offensive coordinator.

But does the free agent signing make the Falcons legitimate Super Bowl contenders? ESPN’s Dan Graziano explored thisĀ question, deeming it an overreaction.

Cousins is going to be 36 years old in August, and as I mentioned, he’s coming off a season-ending Achilles injury. He also has never been past the second round of the playoffs in any of his 12 NFL seasons.

We have high hopes for the Falcons’ young offensive stars because they were high draft picks, and we’ve seen flashes of greatness from all of them, but we haven’t seen sustained success. And that doesn’t usually just show up in one season. The coaching staff and quarterback are new. And the Bucs, by the way, had a sneaky good week bringing back receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the core of a team that has won this division the past three years.

I like Atlanta to be improved with Cousins under center, but I’m not putting them in a class with the 49ers, Lions, Packers, Rams, Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC until I see it.

I agree and disagree with Graziano.

I don’t think the Falcons are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, at least not until they show me. There are still holes on the defensive side of the ball that must be addressed, and expecting that unit to improve upon last year’s progress under Jimmy Lake probably isn’t fair.

Moreover, Zac Robinson is a first-time play caller. No matter how highly regarded he is around league circles, he’s still green. The same could be said for Kirk Cousins as well. Though he’s a veteran, he’s entering a new city with new teammates and a first-time play caller.

Now, on the flip side of things, Graziano mentions the Buccaneers having a ‘sneaky good’ week of free agency isn’t the way I’d go about this one. The Falcons split with the Bucs and Saints last year with horrid quarterback play. Oh yeah, Tampa Bay needed a last-minute touchdown in the second meeting to take control of the division too.

It’s not that Kirk Cousins is heads and shoulders better than Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield because he isn’t. It’s that Kirk Cousins is heads and shoulders better than Desmond Ridder, who nearly led the Falcons to an NFC South crown.

I don’t think Atlanta is a legitimate Super Bowl contender right now, but they’re favorites to win the division for a reason. They aren’t in the same conversation as the elite teams in the league, but the Packers, Rams, and NFC East teams? Give me a break. The Falcons can compete with them.

Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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