COLUMN: What have the Atlanta Falcons done?

Apr. 29—With the eighth pick in the 2024 NFL draft the Atlanta Falcons select... Michael Penix Jr.?

It was a complete shock when the Falcons took Washington's Penix with the eighth pick. Penix had been on the Falcons radar and Atlanta had informed current quarterback Kirk Cousins that they would take a young QB in the later rounds. All reports said Atlanta was going to go defensive in the draft, likely taking Dallas Turner out of Alabama.

But, in a shocking and chaotic turn of events, they drafted Penix. This is a strange move, especially considering they just signed Cousins to an outrageous contract in free agency. In the offseason, the Falcons signed Cousins to a four year, $180 million contract, which guarantees him $100 million. They have weapons for him to throw too, a remarkable run game to lean on and now, the quarterback to lead them. So, really the pick makes no sense.

The Falcons staff did convey their thinking in a press conference elater on, but it still left fans scratching their heads in confusion. According to multiple people in the Atlanta front office, they took Penix because they don't know when they will have another opportunity to take a QB that high. They expect to be successful in the coming years, which will push them out of the top ten, and they wanted to take Penix to secure the future of their quarterback position. According to reports, the fact that Cousins is coming off an Achilles injury did not impact the decision to draft Penix and Atlanta has confirmed that Cousins is their starter.

Now, it is not uncommon for teams to take a young quarterback to sit behind their veteran starter. Atlanta even referenced Green Bay and the way they handled Aaron Rodgers sitting behind Brett Favre and Jordan Love sitting behind Rodgers.

Here is Atlanta's problem. By drafting Penix eighth overall, they now have to sign him to a four year contract with a fifth year option worth $22.8 million. The Falcons are paying $22.8 million for a backup who looks like he may sit for at least four years.

And there is another issue. Jordan Love was 21 when Green Bay drafted him in 2020. He sat behind Rogers for a few years and, at age 25, got the starting job after Rogers left.

Penix is already 24 years-old. That means that if Cousins plays out his contract and leaves Atlanta after four year, Penix will be 28 before he gets the starting job. It's hard to justify paying that much for a guy who has been injury-prone in his college career and might not start before he is 28.

That being said, this could work out for Atlanta. Penix is a solid quarterback, but certainly needs to be developed before he is NFL ready. Sitting behind a vet like Cousins will be nothing but good for the former Husky. Ideally, he would take the field as a starter, but then the money conversation rears its ugly head again.

If Penix were to take over, the Falcons would then have to justify paying $180 million for a backup quarterback. Atlanta has put themselves in a very strenuous and precarious financial situation. One that could be extremely harmful to their future.