Falcons Sign Round 1 QB Michael Penix Jr.

The single-digit list of unsigned rookies dwindled again Friday. The Falcons reached an agreement with their first-round pick. Michael Penix Jr. has signed his four-year rookie deal, Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweets.

This news leaves Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels as the only QBs left unsigned from this class. Penix will be tied to a fully guaranteed contract featuring a fifth-year option. The Falcons do not need to decide on the option until May 2027. Their situation might not end up leaving too much evaluation time.

[RELATED: Prospect Profile: Michael Penix Jr.]

Atlanta surprised most by drafting Penix despite having signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180MM deal — one that features $100MM in practical guarantees — in March. Cousins was believed to be stunned by his new team’s first-round decision, which does not exactly have a close comp in modern NFL history. While the Packers had two first-round picks (Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love) sit for three seasons, they had not signed a free agent starter during the offseason they made those draft choices.

The Falcons informed Cousins of their decision to go with Penix at No. 8 overall minutes before the pick. Arthur Blank is believed to have played a key role in the decision as well, with Falcons scouting staffer Joel Collier providing the initial report on the Washington prospect that eventually led to the NFC South club’s decision to draft him. When Cousins was asked if he would still have signed with the Falcons had he known they would pick a quarterback in the first round, the high-priced veteran said he did not deal in hypotheticals.

Penix went through Atlanta’s offseason program receiving second- and third-team reps. Although Taylor Heinicke worked ahead of the rookie at points during the team’s OTAs and minicamp, Penix is expected to be Cousins’ top backup once the regular season begins. Heinicke, who primarily served as a backup to Desmond Ridder last year while replacing the ineffective starter on multiple occasions, took a pay cut to stay with the Falcons this offseason.

Finishing up his recovery from Achilles surgery, Cousins is expected to be ready for training camp. Thus far, no mystery exists regarding the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Until further notice, that is Cousins. Though, early speculation is already laying out a scenario in which the Falcons trade Cousins after one season. For guarantee purposes, the earliest the Falcons can escape the Cousins contract without taking on a massive dead money number would be in 2026.

While Penix is set to spend at least his age-24 season developing behind Cousins, he comes to Atlanta after a dominant 2023 season. The national championship game starter led Division I-FBS with 4,903 passing yards. The lefty threw 36 TD passes, teaming with Rome Odunze — whom the Bears selected one spot later — to pilot the Huskies to the CFP title game. Coaches were viewed as higher on the former Indiana recruit, who suffered four season-ending injuries, compared to scouts. Some among the latter contingent expressed concern about his mechanics and health history.

The Raiders were viewed as a team potentially ready to grab Penix at No. 13, but the Silver and Black were not aiming to trade up for a non-Daniels option. As such, Penix is in an unusual situation that could have him sitting until at least his age-26 season. It will be interesting to see if any rumblings about that timeline being sped up emerge during Cousins’ Atlanta stay.

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