Falcons pondered NFL Draft trade before turning focus to Kirk Cousins

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Coming into the offseason, the Falcons’ overarching theme was simple — fix the quarterback position.

Raheem Morris went as far as to say that had the team gotten better quarterback play last year, he might not be in Atlanta. He’s right. His predecessor, Arthur Smith, took a ton of flack from the fan base, but most of the Falcons’ shortcomings stem from their signal callers.

The Falcons had a few paths they could take. Some prioritized winning immediately, while others were more long-term. The draft presented interesting prospects at the top, and free agency featured a couple of established veterans.

Raheem Morris built a quarterback-centric coaching staff, one that features Zac Robinson, who coached and played the position in the NFL, T.J. Yates, who played seven seasons as an NFL quarterback, Super Bowl champion Doug Williams’ son, D.J. Williams, along with offensive assistant K.J. Black. Senior offensive assistant Ken Zampese has coached quarterbacks in the league for decades.

The group had a deep dive of options, and eventually landed on Kirk Cousins, who signed a massive contract worth $180 million over four years shortly after news broke that Baker Mayfield, who was No. 2 on Atlanta’s veteran list behind Cousins, had re-signed with the Buccaneers.

Like I said though, there were a crop of intriguing prospects that could potentially fix the position for the next decade, not just a few years like Cousins. In fact, the Falcons inquired about a potential trade up the draft board but quickly moved off that avenue once the top three teams showed no interest in moving off their picks, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

So at the end of the deep dive, the Falcons had Cousins as their top veteran target, Tampa’s Baker Mayfield after him, and a comfort level with the top quarterbacks in the draft as well, which brought Atlanta to the 2024 combine in position to investigate a trade up.

While the likelihood was Cousins would remain the top target, the Falcons resolved to look into moving within the top five. Inquiries with the Bears, Commanders and Patriots at the combine didn’t go very far—none of the three were willing to move, at least not at that early juncture. And waiting for that to change would mean missing the market for veterans, a risk the Falcons were never going to take.

The Falcons had a slew of options on the table, including trading up, presumably, for one of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels. However, Kirk Cousins was always their top target, and the contract reflects that.

The Vikings were outmatched in every facet of the deal. Atlanta outbid Minnesota in guarantees, years, and average annual value. Some Falcons fans probably wish the club had gone in a different direction, but the reality is Chicago, Washington, and New England were never moving those picks.

Terry Fontenot, Raheem Morris, and the Falcons got their guy.

Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

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