Why did Atlanta Falcons take Penix when they have Kirk Cousins?

Apr 25, 2024, 7:47 PM | Updated: Apr 26, 2024, 4:01 pm

UW Huskies Michigan Michael Penix Jr draft...

Michael Penix Jr. of the UW Huskies looks to throw the ball on Jan. 8, 2024. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

In what was likely the most surprising pick in the top 10 of the 2024 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected UW Huskies star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 overall pick.

Stunner! UW’s Michael Penix Jr. goes No. 8 in draft

The pick comes as such a surprise because the Falcons signed QB Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract during the offseason. However, Cousins is coming off a torn Achilles tendon suffered during Week 8 of the 2023 season while he was playing for the Minnesota Vikings. The typical timeline to return from a torn Achilles is 9-12 months.

During Seattle Sports’ NFL Draft coverage, former NFL players Brock Huard, Dave Wyman and Michael Bumpus broke down what Penix’s selection means for the UW star and the Atlanta Falcons.

“If you’re Kirk Cousins, you’re watching this tonight and you and your Kohl’s t-shirt are like, ‘What? What did we just do?'” Huard said.

It sounds like Cousins’ reaction wasn’t far off from that.

Penix, who was the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season and led UW to a Pac-12 title and the national championship game, could be Atlanta’s long-term solution, though.

“If this kid works out – which I think he is going to, I love everything about Penix – you solve a long-term problem, man,” Wyman said. “I mean quarterbacks, I hate to put too much importance on it, but if I’m if I’m drafting and trying to build a team (you need a quarterback).”

WA NFL Draft Tracker: UW Huskies, WSU and local picks

If Cousins recovers from his injury in time for the regular season, that means Penix could end up getting the chance to sit and learn behind a proven starter. Cousins is a four-time Pro Bowl pick and had thrown at least 25 TDs in eight straight seasons before last year’s injury.

“The best thing I like about this pick is that he gets to marinate, he gets to sit for a little bit,” Bumpus said. “I know he’s 23 (years old), about to be 24. I guess he’s old when it comes to football years. Forget all that noise. You get to sit and learn behind Kirk Cousins. Kirk Cousins doesn’t win a lot of playoff games, but he wins a lot of games, and he’s shown that he can take your franchise to the next level. Can he take you to the Super Bowl? No, he hasn’t done that, but I like this for Penix. He gets to sit, relax (and) marinate.”

Huard also pointed out that new Falcons head coach Raheem Morris has connections to the west coast from his time as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams, and that Morris is aware of what a quarterback with the type of arm talent Penix has can mean for a team.

“(He’s a) west coast dude, watched all those west coast games and also knows with (Rams starting QB) Matthew Stafford (that) rocket arms matter,” Huard said. “… I asked Peyton Manning one time, of all these guys that have come to your Manning Academy … who’s the one that was just like, ‘Wow, that arm is just different.’ It was Matthew Stafford, and (Penix) has a Matthew Stafford kind of arm. He’s got that kind of ability, and now he has (weapons of offense in Atlanta) and now he’s got a good O-line. And he gets to learn from Kirk … What a cool, cool deal for Michael Penix Jr.”

For more of Seattle Sports’ reaction to the Michael Penix Jr. draft selection, watch the video near the top of this post.

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Why did Atlanta Falcons take Penix when they have Kirk Cousins?