Joel Collier

Kirk Cousins Addresses Michael Penix Jr. Pick; Latest On Falcons’ Draft Plan

A post-draft report pegged Kirk Cousins as stunned by the Falcons’ decision to choose Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall. The move came after the team signed Cousins to a contract that includes $100MM in practical guarantees.

Some around the league are already wondering if the Falcons will be ready to trade Cousins in 2025, as only the Packers have tried a multiyear QB apprenticeship during the rookie pay-scale era (2011-present). Cousins did respond, “I don’t deal in hypotheticals” when asked if he would have signed with the Falcons knowing they would use a top-10 pick on a passer. But the veteran QB is onboard with Atlanta’s current (and unexpected) setup.

[RELATED: Raheem Morris Addresses Falcons’ QB Situation]

I don’t really deal in hypotheticals. We could go down that path for a long time in a lot of ways,” Cousins said, via’s Terrin Waack. “It just doesn’t do us any good. I’m excited for this opportunity that I have. I think it’s a real privilege to be a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and I’m trying to make good on the opportunity that they’ve given me with the way I work each day and the way we play this fall.

Cousins, 35, then compared this situation (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter) to Washington drafting both he and Robert Griffin III in 2012 and Michigan State signing Nick Foles as a recruit in 2007. Foles transferred to Arizona after one season. Washington also had no plans of using Cousins as a starter, with that path emerging after RG3’s career began to skid off course. As we detailed during a recent Trade Rumors Front Office post, no direct 21st-century comp exists of a team committing to a high-profile starter (for big money) and following it up with a first-round pick a month later.

“Mike’s been great. There’s always going to be competition in this league and you have to go out and earn it,” Cousins said, via The Athletic’s Josh Kendall. “I’m going to control what I can control and I understand there’s a lot you can’t control.”

Part of the reason Cousins departed Minnesota came due to the team informing him a quarterback pick was likely. Now, Cousins is in that situation in Atlanta. The Falcons may not have been fully committed to go in this direction until its new coaching staff arrived, with’s Jeremy Fowler noting the hires of Raheem Morris and his staff coming close to free agency may well have influenced the team to acquire a stable quarterback before doing work on the draft class. Penix’s throwing session during a workout in Seattle moved the needle for the Falcons, as Fowler adds the Morris-led staff zeroed in on the Washington product.

Falcons national scout Joel Collier provided the initial report that led to Penix going eighth overall, Ledbetter adds. Collier’s work on Penix began following the 2023 draft, and the left-handed QB obviously built on his profile with a dominant 2023.

Shoot, that goes back to, all of our guys in this draft, that goes back to the year before,” Falcons assistant GM Kyle Smith said during a feature on the team’s YouTube channel. “So, our guys will start evaluating the players for next year’s draft at the end of May here. So, Joel was the guy who really liked Penix.”

Smith referred to Collier, the former Chiefs assistant GM, as the “primary scout” on the Penix project. Other members of the organization cross-checked his report on the former Indiana recruit, and the new coaching staff became involved later in the process. The Falcons attempted to trade back into the first round, which would have cost considerable future capital, with Laiatu Latu being the target in what would have been a way for the team to add Penix and grab a high-end prospect to help the 2024 team. That plan did not produce a trade, however, and the Falcons exited the first round with a player who might ride the bench for multiple seasons.

We had an opportunity in unrestricted free agency to add a guy that we believe in, and it’s an expensive addition because he’s that guy,” Smith said of Cousins. “He’s our quarterback. He is our starter. He’s the guy we believe we can win with. He’s the leader.”

Coming off a torn Achilles suffered Oct. 29, 2023, Cousins is moving close to being cleared for full work. He is not there yet, but Morris said (via Pro Football Talk) the recently signed QB has been “pretty much full-go” for what the team is asking him to do in voluntary workouts. Full clearance is not expected during the offseason program, but Cousins expects to be at full speed when camp starts.

Until then, the previously durable passer will continue his rehab while Penix — who dealt with a number of major injuries while at Indiana from 2018-21 — assimilates, creating a historically unusual situation. Penix’s development will certainly be a key 2024 subplot to monitor, though Cousins will still be set to move last year’s Division I-FBS passing leader out of the spotlight once he completes his recovery. But Penix’s progress will be a lingering issue — most likely throughout Cousins’ Atlanta stay.

Falcons Make Front Office Changes

The Falcons have made some changes to their staff, but new GM Terry Fontenot will also keep some big names from the previous regime on the payroll going forward.

Former GMs Phil Emery and Ruston Webster will remain with the Falcons, with the team shifting the pair from scouting roles to spots as senior personnel executives. Emery, the Bears’ GM from 2012-14, and Webster, the Titans’ GM from 2012-15, joined Thomas Dimitroff‘s staff in 2016 as scouts. Emery has worked in the NFL since 1998; Webster’s tenure in the league dates back to 1988.

Additionally, the Falcons are promoting Michael Ross and Tokunbo Abanikanda from area scouts to the national level. Ross has been with the Falcons since Dimitroff’s second year, rising up from the entry level to his current national scout post. Abanikanda, a 10-year Falcons staffer, has done the same since joining the team. Emery and Webster worked as national scouts during Dimitroff’s final five seasons.

Fontenot will also keep other Dimitroff-era staffers, though some will see their roles reduced. Former Chiefs assistant GM Joel Collier will move from national scout to area scout, while Shepley Heard will go from director of pro personnel down to area scout. Heard has been with the Falcons since 2005. Additionally, Benjamin Martinez will follow Fontenot over from New Orleans. A 12-year Saints staffer who worked as a video assistant for the past four years, Martinez will join the Falcons as a BLESTO scout. BLESTO scouts often do advance work on future draft classes.

Falcons Hire Joel Collier

The Falcons announced that they have hired Joel Collier as their new Director of Pro Personnel. Collier previously served as the assistant general manager for the Chiefs from 2009-13.

[RELATED: Falcons to retain general manager Thomas Dimitroff]

Collier brings more than 20 years of NFL experience to Atlanta and will rejoin a revamped front office. While GM Thomas Dimitroff remains in charge, the team has also hired a pair of ex-GMs in former Bears general manager Phil Emery and ex-Titans GM Ruston Webster as national scouts.

As detailed in the club’s press release, Collier helped the Chiefs complete one of the best turnarounds in NFL history as the club won the AFC West with a 10-6 record in 2010 after going 4-12 in 2009. One has to imagine that Collier’s history with Falcons Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli, formerly the top decision maker in KC, helped bring him to the Falcons. Collier and Pioli were largely responsible for drafting Pro Bowlers such as Eric Berry (3), Justin Houston (2), Dontari Poe, and Dexter McCluster for the Chiefs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.