Kirk Cousins is getting paid the big bucks again. The former Vikings signal caller cashed in on a four-year, $180-million deal with the Falcons on the first day of the legal tampering period, and like Cousins' career as a whole, it's a polarizing move. Cousins detractors will point to middling (or upper-middle) team results -- he has one career playoff win -- the fact that he'll be 36 by the time the season starts, coming off a torn Achilles and other criticisms that come with the territory of being a good-but-not-great quarterback. Cousins endorsers will point to strong individual stats despite some tough situations around him, a generally clean bill of health prior to the injury and the fact that he continues to play good football -- perhaps some of the best of his career -- well into his 30s.

The truth lies somewhere in between. Cousins is very, very good at some things. He's not so good at others. Atlanta is betting that his good features can be accentuated. Cousins is hoping the same in his new home. Here are four major takeaways from the move.

1. Cousins is a strong fit for a familiar offensive system

Cousins spent the last two seasons under Kevin O'Connell, and last year he looked to be falling into lockstep with his head coach. Cousins completed 69.5% of his passes, the third-best mark in the NFL, while throwing a touchdown on 5.8% of his pass attempts, fourth-best in the NFL. Furthermore, he was sacked on just 5.2% of his dropbacks, sixth in the NFL, and his 1.6% interception rate was not only also eighth in the NFL but also the third-lowest of his career.

This came in a season where Cousins was asked to do more than ever before. He dropped back over 41 times per game, third in the NFL, and threw for over 291 yards per game, most in the NFL. So if the rate stats showed his ability to be efficient and avoid mistakes, the basic numbers showed he could maintain that efficiency even when handling a large workload.

Cousins finished with 0.06 expected points added per dropback in 2023, 15th in the NFL. While that may not sound amazing, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson both posted 0.07. Overall, Cousins delivered very solid -- and at times very good -- play before his injury.

But that's all in the past. The Cousins fit going forward is our focus, and it's a good one. He'll operate under head coach Raheem Morris -- who was with Cousins in Washington and with O'Connell in Los Angeles -- and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, who was with O'Connell in Los Angeles. Robinson and O'Connell both come from Sean McVay's scheme, and, wouldn't you know it, McVay was in Washington for the start of Cousins' career under play-action guru Mike Shanahan, whose extended coaching tree includes McVay, O'Connell, Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, Mike McDaniel and others. It all comes full circle.

The operative phrase here is "play action." Over the past two seasons, Cousins used play action on 28.8% of his dropbacks, fourth in the NFL, and he thrived on those throws. Expect a lot more in Atlanta.

Kirk Cousins on Play Action, 2022-23

NFL Rank

Touchdowns passing



Off-target percentage



Touchdown-to-interception ratio



Passer rating



Expected points added per dropback



Last season, Desmond Ridder was arguably the worst play-action passer in the NFL despite using play action second-most frequently in the NFL behind Cousins.

What's exciting, though, is that Cousins is quite adept on straight dropbacks, too. On non-play action throws, he posted career-bests in completion percentage (68.9%), yards per attempt (7.7), touchdown rate (5.9%) and off-target rate (6.8%). The Falcons can lean on straight dropbacks when needed and believe in Cousins' ability to make the right play.

2. Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Cousins all get upgrades

This one makes sense. Offensive weapons benefit from a better quarterback. And Cousins is a massive upgrade.

Drake London in particular should be excited. A whopping 13.6% of passes thrown his way last year were off-target, and we've already discussed Cousins' accuracy. More specifically, London should be ecstatic about Cousins' ability to throw over the middle. Cousins averaged 9.4 yards per attempt on throws between the numbers in 2023, third in the NFL behind Brock Purdy and C.J. Stroud (min. 150 pass att.). That's an elite number, and it's one that matches up with one of London's strengths. At 6'4" and 213 pounds, London has the size to be a very good player over the middle of the field. Last year, London posted 13.7 yards per catch in that area. For reference, Tyreek Hill was at 13.8, CeeDee Lamb was at 13.5, and Puka Nacua was at 13.3.

Kyle Pitts should also see a jump in both use and production. Cousins loves his tight ends. Nearly 27% of his passes targeted tight ends last year, fifth in the NFL. He has experienced success with T.J. Hockenson, Tyler Conklin and Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota and Jordan Reed in Washington. Pitts -- as physically gifted as any tight end and, in theory, finally healthy -- should be next.

Kirk Cousins Targeting TE Since 2015

NFL Rank

Pass attempts



Pass yds



Pass TD



Expected points added per dropback


14th (out of 47)

One of Cousins' favorite ways to target is on play action -- there's that phrase again -- and down the field to his tight end.

Pitts can really run, and the hope here is Robinson and Co. get creative in giving him space to operate.

Finally, Cousins joins a team with a strong offensive line. Atlanta allowed a quarterback pressure rate of 31.1% last year, fifth in the NFL. Minnesota was at 37.7%, 21st in the NFL. Cousins' biggest issues arise when he's pressured -- he takes a decent number of sacks and can turn it over when time runs out -- but Chris Lindstrom leads a strong group.

3. Cousins has been clutch. No, really.

There's a perception that Cousins shrinks in big moments. Though his primetime record is ugly, he's actually a very good late-game quarterback. Cousins led eight game-winning drives in 2022 and was the third-best clutch quarterback according to Douglas Clawson's rankings ahead of last season.

He lands third on this list after he was Mr. Clutch in the 2022 season, converting on an NFL-high 71% (12-17) of potential game-tying or go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. He's part of the reason the Vikings set or tied NFL records in the following categories in 2022

  • Largest comeback in NFL history (33 points)
  • Most one-score wins in a season (11)
  • Most comeback wins in a season (10)
  • Most fourth-quarter comeback wins in a season (8)
  • Most 10+ point fourth-quarter comeback wins in a season (4)

4. What do the Falcons need to do next on offense?

Atlanta kicked off free agency with a bang, but there's work to do. Along with Cousins, the Falcons added tight end Charlie Woerner. Woerner is a strong blocker.

But Atlanta needs more in the receiving room. London and Pitts should be cornerstones, and Bijan Robinson will certainly have a sizable role. But there's a major need for another wide receiver (or two). Cousins has done his best work when there's a really good No. 2 receiver -- whether that was Adam Thielen or Jordan Addison -- and Atlanta must upgrade and extremely thin room.

Atlanta has four picks in the top 80, including the eighth overall pick, where they may add pass-rush juice to the defense. But it's a deep wide receiver class, and Atlanta should take advantage.