Kirk Cousins improves Falcons' QB room, rest of offense is ... (2024)

  • Kirk Cousins improves Falcons' QB room, rest of offense is ... (1)

    Marc Raimondi, ESPN Staff WriterJul 2, 2024, 06:00 AM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons have drafted offensive players -- four at the skill positions, including quarterback -- in the top 10 of each of the past four NFL drafts. Thus far, the strategy has not yielded positive results.

In three years under head coach Arthur Smith, the Falcons went 21-30 -- three straight 7-10 seasons -- and did not make the playoffs. Smith was fired after last season and Raheem Morris, the former Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator and former Falcons assistant and interim head coach, was hired in his place.

Morris, who will bring most of his staff from the Rams, is not the only major change. The Falcons signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a free agent contract in March that will pay him around $100 million in guaranteed money. Cousins will be the linchpin under center for a team that has had quarterback struggles for the past several years. He represents the hope that he is the missing piece those first-round skill players need to reach their potential. He'll try to lead Atlanta to its first winning record since 2017.

Here's a look at the makeup of the roster after minicamp, and whether each position group is the same, better or worse.

Quarterbacks

Returners: Taylor Heinicke

Losses: Desmond Ridder, Logan Woodside

Additions: Kirk Cousins, Michael Penix Jr.

Better, worse or the same? Better

No other quarterback room improved this much. Why? Because not only did the Falcons sign Cousins, a proven, productive veteran -- they also drafted a top college quarterback in Penix with the No. 8 overall pick.

Atlanta's present and future at the position should be strong, and that's not something the team could have said since Matt Ryan manned the position before being traded in 2022. Only two quarterbacks have thrown more touchdowns since 2020 than Cousins: Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.

Plus, Cousins' four-year, $180 million contract is looking better, considering some of the recent activity in the QB market. Suddenly, general manager Terry Fontenot doesn't look so misguided locking up the most important position in the sport for a long time.

Receivers

Returners: Drake London, KhaDarel Hodge, Chris Blair

Losses: Scotty Miller, Van Jefferson, Mack Hollins, Frank Darby, Damiere Byrd

Additions: Darnell Mooney, Rondale Moore, Ray-Ray McCloud III, Casey Washington, Josh Ali, Isaiah Wooden

Better, worse or the same? Better

One of the Falcons' biggest offseason priorities, outside of getting a quarterback, was adding a No. 2 wide receiver to complement London. Atlanta feels like it has done that with Mooney, who came over as a free agent from the Chicago Bears.

Moore, who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for Ridder, and McCloud figure to play roles in the offense, as well.

The Falcons drafted Washington in the sixth round and he showed promise in the spring. There are a few other names who will battle for a job during training camp in a group that is at least faster than it was a year ago.

Running backs

Returners: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier

Losses: Cordarrelle Patterson, Godwin Igwebuike, Keith Smith

Additions: Avery Williams, Carlos Washington Jr., Jase McClellan, Robert Burns

Better, worse or the same? Better

Patterson is a solid player who has since moved on to join Smith, who is now the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator. But barring a sophom*ore slump, Robinson should be even better in Year 2.

He said in the spring that he expects to be used a bit like San Francisco uses Christian McCaffrey, which piqued the interest of Falcons fans, as well as fantasy football enthusiasts.

Allgeier is also a very good back with a 1,000-yard rushing season under his belt. They should form a formidable one-two punch in this new-look offense, guided by offensive coordinator Zac Robinson.

Tight Ends

Returners: Kyle Pitts, John FitzPatrick

Losses: Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Parker Hesse, Tucker Fisk

Additions: Charlie Woerner, Austin Stogner, Ross Dwelley

Better, worse or the same? Same

If Pitts can return to the form he showed as a record-setting rookie, then this unit will definitely be better than it was in 2023. But if not, it will pretty much be the same.

The Falcons added Woerner and Dwelley, a pair of former San Francisco 49ers players known more for their blocking than catching. The TE room is clearly built around Pitts, though. He'll split out wide sometimes as a receiver, and Robinson figures to use him in different ways. It can't hurt Pitts that he figures to have the best quarterback play of his career with Cousins.

Offensive line

Returners: Jake Matthews, Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman, Kaleb McGary, Matthew Bergeron, Tyler Vrabel, Storm Norton, Ryan Neuzil, John Leglue, Kyle Hinton, Jovaughn Gwyn

Losses: Isaiah Prince

Additions: Jaryd Jones-Smith, Barry Wesley, Andrew Stueber, Ryan Coll

Better, worse or the same? Same

The Falcons bring back their entire offensive line from last season, and that's a good thing.

Led by left tackle Matthews and guard Lindstrom, Atlanta has one of the best groups in the NFL. Lindstrom is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and Matthews is a hard-nosed veteran who has been with the team since it went to the Super Bowl eight years ago. Dalman is a steady center, McGary is a solid run-blocker at right tackle and Bergeron is someone Morris said has noticeably improved since his rookie season in 2023.

Kirk Cousins improves Falcons' QB room, rest of offense is ... (2024)
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