What happens financially if the Falcons trade or cut Kirk Cousins?

Kirk Cousins Falcons Penix

Kirk Cousins hasn’t played a single snap for the Falcons yet, and NFL pundits are already mulling over potential landing spots in a trade.

“Otherwise, the other potential landing spots appear to be with the Raiders, Steelers and Titans, none of whom have a settled quarterback of the future. The Giants, Jets, Saints, Seahawks and even the Dolphins could also be in the market for a veteran starter,” Bill Barnwell stated.

Atlanta notoriously drafted Michael Penix 8th overall six weeks after giving Kirk Cousins a $180 million free agent deal. It may spark a fire under Cousins, similar to what happened in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Jordan Love in 2020, and Aaron Rodgers proceeded to collect back-to-back MVPs.

Nobody expects Cousins to go out and win an MVP, but we also shouldn’t be surprised if the veteran puts together another impressive campaign in 2024. It may push off the inevitable split between Cousins and the Falcons, but it won’t change the fact that he’s extremely unlikely to play out the entirety of the four-year contract he signed.

Barnwell of ESPN also explored the financial ramifications of the Falcons moving on from Kirk Cousins

“Could the Falcons move on after one year? Yes, although it would be more complicated. If Cousins agrees to a trade, it would be easy; Atlanta would actually save $2.5 million as part of that deal, and while it would have paid him $62.5 million for one year of work, it wouldn’t be on the hook for the remaining $37.5 million in guarantees. The Falcons would have $37.5 million in dead money on their cap, but we’ve seen teams grown more comfortable eating that sort of dead money if they’re ready to move on from a quarterback,” Barnwell said.

Trading Cousins after one season would cost the Falcons $62.5 million for one year of work. That may be a difficult pill to swallow, but if Michael Penix Jr. is the guy Atlanta thinks he is, it will be much easier. However, Cousins could easily hold the Falcons’ feet to the fire, and it could bite Atlanta in the ass.

“Cutting Cousins after 2024 would be more difficult to swallow, especially from the financial side. The Falcons would be on the hook for $27.5 million guaranteed in 2025 and basically be paying him to play for the minimum elsewhere, as Russell Wilson is now doing in Pittsburgh. They would get out of the $10 million commitment for 2026, but in addition to spreading $65 million in dead money over two years, they would have paid Cousins $90 million for one year of football as a lame-duck signal-caller. That couldn’t have been their plan when they signed him.”

There really is no future scenario where the Falcons come out of this without wasting money, but it’s clear they’re okay with that or they wouldn’t have drafted Michael Penix in the first place. I’m not even quite sure what the ideal situation is for Atlanta. If I had to guess, they prefer Penix to be ready sooner rather than later.

Photographer: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

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