Michael Penix Jr.

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.

Ten Unsigned 2024 Draft Picks Remain

The NFL collectively is ahead of where it was last year with regards to draft signings. Teams have navigated the guarantee issue second-round contracts presented in recent years. Unlike 2023, when 30 players were unsigned in late June and nearly half the second round was without contracts entering July, we are down to 10 unsigned rookies from the 2024 class. Here is the lot still without NFL contracts:

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

The clearest difference between this year and last comes from the second round. On June 17, 2023, half the second-rounders were unsigned. The 2011 CBA introducing the slot system has removed most of the drama from rookie-deal negotiations, but second-rounders continue to make guarantee gains. This contractual component has complicated matters for teams in the past, but that has not been the case — for the most part — this year.

A number of 2021 second-round picks remain attached to their rookie deals. Those terms illustrate the improvements Round 2 draftees have made on that front since. The Jaguars did guarantee 2021 No. 33 pick Tyson Campbell‘s first three seasons; his fourth brought $50K guaranteed. This year, the Bills needed to guarantee nearly Keon Coleman‘s entire rookie contract. Coleman has three years locked in and $1.74MM of his $2.1MM 2027 base salary is guaranteed at signing. This year’s No. 59 overall pick (Texans tackle Blake Fisher) secured more in Year 4 guarantees than Campbell’s deal contains.

A sizable gap does exist between Coleman’s final-year guarantees and those of Falcons DT Ruke Orhorhoro (No. 35 overall). The Clemson product has $966K of his $2.1MM 2024 base guaranteed. This gulf has likely caused the holdup for the Chargers and McConkey, a player who — after the exits of longtime starters Keenan Allen and Mike Williams — stands to be a central figure in the Bolts’ first Jim Harbaugh-era offense. With the top players in Round 2 on the cusp of seeing fully guaranteed deals, McConkey can set another notable precedent while gaining some additional security for himself.

First-round contracts have only been fully guaranteed en masse since 2022, when Vikings safety Lewis Cine — chosen 32nd overall — secured those terms. Though, matters like offset language still have been known to slow negotiations. Extended holdouts into training camp no longer occur among rookies, with players risking the loss of an accrued season toward free agency — a product of the 2020 CBA — by doing so. Corley and Benson were this year’s top third-round picks. The 49ers gave No. 64 overall pick Renardo Green two fully guaranteed years. That has likely caused a holdup for the Jets and Cardinals, considering the progress made via contracts agreed to by earlier draftees.

Kirk Cousins Expects To Be Full-Go ‘Well Before’ Week 1; Grady Jarrett Eyeing Training Camp Return

Thrust into an unusual situation following the Falcons’ scrutinized decision to draft Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall, Kirk Cousins is also in the final stages of rehab from his first significant NFL injury. The high-priced Atlanta QB is not quite recovered from his Achilles setback.

Cousins is close, however, and the 13th-year veteran said (via The Athletic’s Josh Kendall) he expects to be operating at full speed well before Week 1. In the meantime, the new Falcons passer has taken every snap with the team’s first-stringers during the offseason program.

The Falcons gave Cousins a four-year, $180MM deal that includes $100MM in practical guarantees. While they then made the unexpected move to draft Penix, no doubts about the team’s 2024 starter have surfaced. Cousins, who will turn 36 in August, is locked into that role. Although Penix took third-team reps — behind Taylor Heinicke — during the Falcons’ Tuesday minicamp practice, Kendall notes the Falcons expect the rookie to be the backup this season. Heinicke accepted a pay cut to remain with his hometown team, doing so before the team picked Penix.

The Vikings lost Cousins for the season on Oct. 29. While the durable QB had missed two starts during his Minnesota tenure, they came due to COVID-19 or the team resting starters in a season finale. The Falcons are betting on the immobile passer’s track record before he went down, and Cousins has called himself ahead of schedule; he previously did not expect to participate in OTAs or minicamp. Training camp will begin nearly nine months after the injury.

Cousins is the Falcons’ highest-profile player rehabbing an injury, but the team’s longtime defensive line anchor is also coming back from a season-ending malady. Grady Jarrett sustained an ACL tear on same day Cousins went down, missing the final nine games of Atlanta’s season. Unlike Cousins, Jarrett is not participating in Atlanta’s minicamp. Going into his 10th NFL season, Jarrett said he is targeting a return by training camp.

That’s my goal,” Jarrett said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gabriel Burns. “Obviously with training camp, there’s always a ramp-up period. Mine might look a little different, but the bulk of it, my goal is to have most of my reps in and not too much special treatment on the side. That’s what I’m working for.

It would certainly not surprise to see Jarrett begin camp on Atlanta’s active/PUP list, a designation that keeps players sidelined until they are ready to practice. A stay on the reserve/PUP list — a regular-season designation that costs players at least four games — appears unlikely. ACL tears affect players differently, and it has not been uncommon to see some midseason knee injuries lead to early-season absences the following year. But more than 10 months will have passed between Jarrett’s injury and the Falcons’ Week 1 game. It should be expected the veteran D-lineman will be available for Atlanta’s opener.

Jarrett, 31, is working in a third defensive system in three years. After Dean Pees‘ retirement, the Falcons moving on from Arthur Smith effectively ensured DC Ryan Nielsen would be a one-and-done in Georgia. Raheem Morris and fellow ex-Rams assistant Jimmy Lake are now running the show. Two seasons remain on Jarrett’s three-year, $49.5MM extension.

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 Falcons.com’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 ESPN.com’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.

Raiders Were Not Prepared To Trade Up For Michael Penix Jr.

Six quarterbacks going in this draft’s first 12 picks left the Raiders in limbo, setting up a Gardner MinshewAidan O’Connell competition. For a second straight year, the team did extensive work on a QB class only to pass on making a move to select one in Round 1.

The Josh McDanielsDave Ziegler power duo arranged meetings with last year’s top five QB prospects, only to stay at No. 7 and draft Tyree Wilson. This year, as a report tabbed Antonio Pierce as more eager to trade up compared to GM Tom Telesco, the Raiders were closely linked to Jayden Daniels and Michael Penix Jr. Daniels proved out of reach, despite the team being the club that most likely sent the Commanders the only offer for No. 2 overall, and Penix came off the board earlier than expected.

The Falcons’ move at No. 8 affected multiple franchises. It convinced the Broncos to stop entertaining trade-down scenarios involving Bo Nix, as the Raiders loomed at No. 13. With Nix going at No. 12, the move also will likely precede a number of Raiders connections to 2025 QB prospects. The Raiders placed a value gap between this year’s top three QBs (Daniels, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye) and the other three first-rounders, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler furthers that view by indicating the team would have considered Penix at No. 13 but was not prepared to trade up for him.

Las Vegas also viewed a trade-down option as viable for Penix, with Fowler indicating the team did not want to reach in Round 1. Trading down quickly became moot for the Raiders, as the Falcons installed Penix behind Kirk Cousins. Sean Payton correctly pegged the Vikings as being J.J. McCarthy fans, as the team moved in front of the Broncos (via the Jets) for the Michigan product, and the Raiders as being high on Penix. With the southpaw prospect in Atlanta, Las Vegas has what appears to be a transition year ahead.

Penix’s early NFL path would have certainly been much different had the Raiders deemed it a priority to come out of Round 1 with a quarterback. Rather than being on track to join Jordan Love as the only first-round QBs in the rookie-scale contract era (2011-present) to sit for more than one season, Penix almost definitely would have been set to debut in 2024 had the Raiders picked him. The six-year college QB joins Nix and Daniels as going into his age-24 season, but with $100MM in practical guarantees due to Cousins, Penix’s QB1 ETA may not be until at least his age-26 season.

A “best player available”-type pick transpired instead for the Raiders, who took Brock Bowers. Pierce denied Terrion Arnold‘s assertion the team flipped a coin to decide between the Alabama cornerback and Georgia tight end, who will follow 2023 second-round pick Michael Mayer to Vegas. Bowers will be expected to become an instant contributor, creating an interesting setup for Mayer — last year’s No. 35 overall pick.

The Raiders did not need to trade up for Will Levis last year, as the Kentucky prospect tumbled out of Round 1, but were not as interested in passers as their “30” visit log suggested. A year after that smokescreen effort, Las Vegas did meet with Penix, Daniels and Nix. But the team’s long-term QB need remains unfilled.

This represents good news for Minshew, who will be the favorite to start — based on the two-year, $25MM ($15MM guaranteed) deal he agreed to hours into the legal tampering period — in 2024. By 2025, however, the Raiders should be expected to go through another exhaustive run of QB research.

Latest On Falcons’ First-Round Decision

The Falcons shocked many last Thursday when the team opted to take Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft. Some saw the pick as a reach in value, thinking Penix could’ve been acquired after trading back; others saw it as a wasted opportunity to address a position of need after Atlanta had just given Kirk Cousins a four-year, $180MM contract with $90MM guaranteed. All this while the team faces significant tampering charges that could deprive them of more first-round picks in the future.

In terms of value, the Falcons feel like they got a steal, at least concerning positional value. Penix ended up being the fourth quarterback off the board, following Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, and Drake Maye, but was drafted before J.J. McCarthy, who was ahead of him in most mock drafts and rankings. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Atlanta was satisfied with how the order of quarterbacks played out, favoring Penix over Maye and McCarthy, though Maye’s camp had reportedly declined to work out for the Falcons, thinking he’d certainly be gone by No. 8 overall. Some in the building even had Penix ahead of Daniels at No. 2.

There also didn’t seem to be any interest in trading back. Breer reports that the team had made inquiries about moving up previously, investigating the availability of the draft’s top picks while in Indianapolis. They reportedly “got flat-out no’s” from Chicago and Washington, while the Patriots and Cardinals informed Atlanta that they would not be moving from their selection until they were on the clock. These rejections were part of what spurred the Falcons to land Cousins.

Speaking of Cousins, we’ve mentioned that the 36-year-old passer was understandably “stunned” by the team’s decision to take a quarterback with their first-round pick, much like the rest of us. Breer added a bit of context to Cousins’ shock that came with little-to-no heads up. He tells us that Cousins’ departure from Minnesota was, in part, due to the Vikings informing him that they had plans to draft a passer in 2024, making the Falcons’ similar plan sting all that much more.

The reasoning for the Falcons’ decision ended up coming down to their research into draft history. Head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot explored a history that showed, on average, only one or two quarterbacks that make it in the NFL out of each draft class, very few of whom are drafted outside the top 10 picks. Also, having sought Cousins to escape from the past two years of a kind of quarterback crisis, owner Arthur Blank was not content with Cousins being the only plan moving forward; he desired a succession plan.

Fontenot explained to Blank that the personnel department didn’t have much faith in the quarterbacks that would be coming out over the next two years, that their best chance for a strong succession plan to Cousins was right in front of them. Fontenot asked Blank, “Are we gonna win for a couple seasons and then not be able to win anymore…?”

In the end, Blank agreed to the moves deemed necessary, Fontenot called Cousins once they were on the clock, and the team selected his eventual replacement. In doing so, though, the team gained a newfound sense of security. Assistant general manager Kyle Smith told the media that with the acquisition of Cousins and the drafting of Penix, the brass feels great about the quarterback position “for the next five years…minimum.”

Broncos Met With Drake Maye, Spencer Rattler; Raiders’ QB Need Impacted Team’s Bo Nix Plan

While Sean Payton effectively admitted he participated in a smokescreen effort regarding the Broncos‘ interest in trading up for a quarterback, the team was most closely tied to Bo Nix during the draft run-up. That did not end up costing the Broncos, who selected the Oregon prospect at No. 12. But the team also did its homework on other passers.

We heard before the draft that J.J. McCarthy trekked to Denver and Nix threw for Broncos brass in Eugene, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes the Broncos did meet with Drake Maye and Spencer Rattler before the draft. Maye proved to be well out of Denver’s price range, as New England turned down two offers — from the Giants and Vikings — that included 2025 first-round picks. Ticketed to be Derek Carr‘s backup in New Orleans, Rattler did not go off the board until Round 5.

[RELATED: Assessing Bo Nix’s Prospect Profile]

Multiple reports pointed to the Broncos being interested in making an aggressive move up the board for a passer; McCarthy, who met with the Broncos on a “30” visit, was mentioned as a target. It turns out Broncos-Nix connections early this offseason doubled as prescient reports. The five-year college starter will likely be given the keys early in his rookie season, with ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano mentioning during a recent TV appearance the recent Pac-12 star is expected to “play right away.”

Broncos GM George Paton scouted Nix at four Oregon games but did not share his views with Payton, per Breer, with an aim toward the Super Bowl-winning HC — and the current Broncos top decision-maker — reaching his own conclusions on the prospect. Payton said post-draft Broncos brass viewed the Vikings as being McCarthy fans and the Raiders eyeing Michael Penix Jr. The Broncos did carry some fear, especially after the Falcons chose Penix at No. 8, the Raiders would leapfrog them for Nix, Breer adds. The QB-needy Raiders’ presence at No. 13 influenced the Broncos to stay put and make a pick many have labeled a reach.

The Raiders were, in fact, interested in Penix — more so than Nix or McCarthy — according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. After a second straight offseason of extensive work on QB draft prospects, the Raiders did not add a high-value pick at the position. As the Raiders regroup around Gardner Minshew, the Broncos do not have a clear hurdle in Nix’s path to seeing action early. Denver has Jarrett Stidham as a placeholder and took a flier on Zach Wilson before passing on the ex-Jet’s fifth-year option. Barring something unexpected, it would surprise if Nix is not Denver’s starter early this season.

Although QBs coach Davis Webb ran Nix’s workout, Breer adds the Paton-Payton tandem — along with ownership — did not reveal to other members of the team’s staff where Nix stood on the team’s board. It is believed the Broncos viewed Nix as this draft’s third-best QB prospect. Most do not agree with that placement, and longtime draft analyst Todd McShay said during an appearance on The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo Podcast (h/t the New York Post) at least 10 NFL evaluators he spoke to did not have a first-round grade on Nix. The Broncos are high on Nix’s accuracy, with their research effort removing QB prospects’ screens and short routes to reveal a player who still ranked as one of Division I-FBS’ most precise passers when those dumpoffs are taken out of the equation.

Since Peyton Manning‘s retirement, the Broncos have used two first-round picks on QBs (Nix, Paxton Lynch) and one second-rounder (Drew Lock) on the position. The team made three trades for starters, obtaining Joe Flacco (2019), Teddy Bridgewater (2021) and Russell Wilson (2022), while signing Case Keenum (two years, $36MM) in 2018. Nothing has worked for the NFL’s only franchise to see a QB retire following a Super Bowl win. That has occurred twice in Denver, and the team has encountered a much tougher journey replacing Manning than John Elway.

Nix now holds the keys to the Broncos’ effort to pick up the pieces post-Russell Wilson, whose $85MM dead money number will cut into Denver’s ability to capitalize on the No. 12 pick’s rookie contract. Although Payton led the effort in pointing Drew Brees to the Hall of Fame and helping develop Tony Romo in Dallas, grooming a first-round pick from scratch will be new territory. With Wilson’s contract quickly becoming an albatross, the Broncos did not have much of a choice but to turn back to the draft.

Latest On Giants, Vikings’ Offers For Patriots’ No. 3 Overall Pick

While Drake Maye generated split opinions as a prospect during the pre-draft process, the Patriots have a rookie quarterback other teams coveted. New England’s reassembled front office has the trade proposals to confirm the interest.

The Patriots did not close off trade avenues, holding talks leading up to going on the clock for their highest draft choice in 31 years. But buzz in the hours leading up to the draft all but locked in Maye to Foxborough. The Giants and Vikings, who each had been viewed as having steady interest in the North Carolina prospect, did make notable offers for the pick.

We heard post-draft the Giants continued to pursue Maye while the Pats were on the clock. Big Blue offered New England its 2025 first-rounder to move from No. 6 to No. 3; New York’s package included that 2025 first and its second-rounder (No. 47) this year, according to ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan. The Vikings were OK unloading their No. 23 pick (along with No. 11) and their 2025 first to climb to No. 3, per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss. Ultimately, the Pats balked and will build around Maye.

Considering how the Giants proceeded at No. 6, their pursuit of Maye qualifies as significant. The team has regrouped around Daniel Jones, despite doing steady work on this class’ top QBs. The Giants chose Malik Nabers over J.J. McCarthyMichael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix. Each passer visited the team during the draft run-up, with Raanan adding the team did not have this QB crop’s second tier graded highly enough for an investment at No. 6.

We had a lot of conversations with a lot of teams,” Giants GM Joe Schoen said. “I’m not going to get into specifics. We had a really good player at six. That was a position that I think was a need that we needed to upgrade. I’m fired up about the kid.”

The Giants’ Maye interest points to another make-or-break season for Jones, whose $40MM-per-year contract can be shed without too much damage in 2025. Jones performed well enough in his previous “prove it” season (2022), becoming the first QB to see his fifth-year option declined and then re-sign with that team. And Nabers profiles as the top target the 2019 first-rounder has been given while with the Giants. But Jones, who is expected to be finished with ACL rehab by training camp, is clearly on the clock once again.

The Vikings’ proposal also included two Patriots mid-round picks this year going to Minnesota, per Reiss. Going into the draft, the Patriots were not impressed with the offers they had received. As the Giants’ 2025 first-rounder dangled as an important chip — as the Pats would have only stepped back three spots in this draft and picked up a second — the Vikings essentially had to include two future firsts to present a viable offer. It cost the 49ers their 2022 and ’23 first-rounders, along with a third, to vault nine spots (No. 12 to No. 3) for Trey Lance in 2021. After New England passed, Minnesota did not end up needing to trade its No. 23 overall pick — later used to move up for Dallas Turnerto land McCarthy.

Each of this draft’s non-Caleb Williams first-round QBs trekked to Minnesota to meet with the Vikings before the draft. All but Jayden Daniels participated in a workout, with SI.com’s Albert Breer adding Daniels — who did not go through QB drills at the Combine or LSU’s pro day — passed on this part of the Vikings visit. Daniels had long been expected to go No. 2 to Washington, which was far less likely to trade the pick — despite the Raiders’ efforts — compared to the Patriots.

After Mac Jones could not sustain his rookie-year momentum — as the Pats cycled through offensive coordinators post-Josh McDaniels — Maye will be tasked with growing into a franchise-caliber passer. The 6-foot-4 prospect may well begin the season behind Jacoby Brissett, but given how this process usually goes, the two-year North Carolina starter should be expected to begin Pats QB1 work well before this season ends.

Falcons HC Raheem Morris Addresses QB Situation

One of the draft’s biggest surprises came on Friday night when the Falcons used their top selection on quarterback Michael Penix Jr. That move came about despite Kirk Cousins being on the books for the next four years (including fully guaranteed salaries in 2024 and ’25).

Cousins will, of course, enter the coming season atop Atlanta’s depth chart. The presence of a successor in the form of Penix could nevertheless invite questions about a change in the pecking order in the event of poor performance on the part of the former. Cousins – who was stunned by the Penix selection – was the top free agent passer in this year’s class despite his age (35) and the fact his 2023 season was cut short by an Achilles tear.

A slow start in 2024 or further missed time brought about by a new injury could lead to calls for Penix to see the field. The Washington product dealt with plenty of health-related issues of his own in college, but his stock rose during the pre-draft process to the point where he was expected to hear his name called in the first round. Still, Atlanta was not thought by many to be a serious suitor for Penix, and owner Arthur Blank reportedly played a central role in the decision to select him.

Raheem Morris is back in place as the Falcons’ head coach after an interim stint with the team in 2020, and he will be tasked with overseeing the transition to Cousins under center. When speaking to the media following the arrival of Penix, Morris made it clear there is not a QB controversy entering the 2024 season.

“We came up with a decision, this is what we plan to do,” Morris said (via ESPN’s Marc Raimondi). “And Kirk does not have to look over his shoulder every time he throws a bad pass. Like, that is not the case. So I know I’m going to have to tell you guys once or twice that that is not the case. Like, we are here to go win, and we are here to go win it all. We are here to win as much as we can win.”

Indeed, expectations will be high for Atlanta’s offense after the team struggled to find a suitable Matt Ryan replacement. Cousins will provide a high floor for the unit, but plenty of attention will be on Penix as the Falcons’ intended starter down the road. If Morris’ stance holds true through the campaign (and likely the 2025 season as well), however, Cousins can be assured of his spot in the QB1 role.

Kirk Cousins ‘Stunned’ By Falcons’ Decision To Draft Michael Penix Jr.

Upon signing Kirk Cousins, the Falcons informed him they were planning to take a quarterback in the later rounds. Just before the team decided to shift course, the high-priced free agency pickup received a rather important phone call.

The Falcons did inform their $45MM-per-year quarterback they were planning to use the No. 8 overall pick on Michael Penix Jr. They did so upon going on the clock. But the longtime Vikings starter is believed to have been stunned by his new team’s decision, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reports.

[RELATED: Arthur Blank Played Role In Falcons’ Penix Pick]

As should be expected, Cousins is concerned this pick does not help the Falcons for the 2024 season, according to Russini (subscription required). Viewed at points as a potential late-first-round prospect, Penix did become connected to the Falcons early this week. But the team’s decision to follow up the Cousins contract — which includes a $100MM practical guarantee, one that ties the 35-year-old passer to Atlanta through 2026 — by selecting the recent national championship game starter was easily the most surprising first-round move.

He got called on the clock, obviously because of the sensitive time with the issues of what you got going on,” Falcons HC Raheem Morris said of the team’s decision to notify Cousins. “It’s never a right time to talk to a quarterback about those things. And reactions are always going to be private when it comes to those things, unless Kirk decides to tell you some of those things that are whatever they may be. But he’s a competitor, just like us all. And you can always expect those things to go just like you kind of think.”

It is not unusual for teams to follow up free agency acquisitions with first-round QB picks, but those moves generally come after a team added a bridge-type passer on the market. Cousins is not that, and an unusual setup is now in place in which Penix learns on the job — potentially for multiple seasons. The Packers are the only team in the fifth-year option era to park a first-round passer for multiple years, but Jordan Love arrived as a No. 26 overall pick. With Penix going eighth, this marks new territory for QB commitment.

Atlanta’s No. 8 draft slot played a key role in the team’s logic here, as Morris said the team views it as unlikely — based largely on Cousins’ status — it will be picking in the top 10 again anytime soon. This is a common refrain among teams, though the Falcons have held a top-10 pick in each of Terry Fontenot‘s four offseasons as GM. Their odds to win the NFC South did improve after Cousins’ arrival, but Penix will probably not move the needle for 2024.

Kirk Cousins our quarterback. We are very excited about Kirk and this team,” Fontenot said, via The Athletic’s Josh Kendall. “We’re very excited about that quarterback room. Kirk is our quarterback. Adding Michael Penix is thinking about the future.”

The Falcons were confident in last season’s Division I-FBS passing leader throughout the pre-draft process, per ESPN.com’s Pete Thamel, who adds the team sent an eight-man contingent — which included Morris, GM Terry Fontenot and OC Zac Robinson — to Seattle to meet with the standout southpaw.

Penix did not take a “30” visit to Atlanta, Russini adds, though the sides had scheduled a meeting in March. While it is less common for a team to make this sort of investment without going through with a visit, that move could have tripped alarms around the league. That said, Penix was highly unlikely to be chosen before the Falcons went on the clock at 8 regardless of his visit schedule.

Coaches were viewed as generally higher than scouts on Penix, with some mechanical issues impacting thet deep-ball maven’s stock. He should have plenty of time to iron those out. Sean Payton said Thursday night he believed the Raiders were targeting Penix, and they had been linked to the Washington prospect. But their plans may well have changed when the Falcons doubled down at the game’s premier position.

Expected to devote the No. 8 choice to defense, the Falcons will be tasked with addressing that side of the ball beginning tonight. Not using No. 8 overall to help a Cousins-led team does create an uphill battle on the roster-building front. Their timeline with Cousins will be fascinating now, as the team will not stand to benefit much from Penix’s rookie contract thanks to the Cousins commitment. The Falcons gave Cousins a no-trade clause, according to OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald, who adds it would cost $35MM for Atlanta to cut ties with the veteran in 2026.

The Packers did not benefit much from Love’s rookie deal, stashing him behind Aaron Rodgers — which created a few headlines during the four-time MVP’s final Green Bay years — for three seasons. That blueprint also involved the Pack trading up for a 21-year-old QB; Penix will turn 24 in May. Green Bay is the only team to execute an extended-runway plan at QB since the 2011 CBA reshaped roster building; it will be interesting to see how the Falcons’ Cousins-Penix effort goes.