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The Falcons have their answer at quarterback.

Spending to land the high-dollar free agent at any position, Atlanta agreed to a four-year deal Monday with quarterback Kirk Cousins, a consistently prolific passer who at 35 will try to lead the Falcons back into the playoffs.

Cousins, who missed the second half of last season with a torn Achilles tendon, gets a four-year deal reportedly worth $180 million, including $100 million guaranteed. It’s a substantial commitment from a franchise that passed on opportunities to chase big-name quarterbacks a year ago. The hope is that Cousins can elevate the talent around him under new coach Raheem Morris and end Atlanta’s six-year playoff drought.

The decision for Cousins came down to staying in Minnesota or starting a new chapter in Atlanta. He’ll still have some familiar faces on the sideline: Cousins overlapped with Morris in Washington in 2012-14, and he figures to run an offense similar to what he had in Minnesota with new Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson. Cousins has passed for at least 25 touchdowns in each of his past eight healthy seasons, while Falcons QBs haven’t thrown for more than 20 in any of the past three years.

[READ MORE: 2024 NFL free-agency grades: Evaluating every major signing so far]

Cousins, who has 39,471 career passing yards and 270 touchdowns, will have a chance to elevate the Falcons’ offensive talent, as they’ve put three straight top-10 draft picks into skill-position players: tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson. They’ll actively work to upgrade their depth at receiver, as London was their only one with even 20 catches last year.

Cousins’ deal is larger than the four-year, $150 million deal the Saints gave Derek Carr a year ago, and larger than the three-year, $100 million deal the Bucs gave Baker Mayfield this past weekend. None of the three came to the division with much playoff experience: Mayfield got his second career playoff win last season, while Carr has none and Cousins is 1-3 in his postseason career. The hope, as it was with the other two franchises, is that Cousins can improve on that record this year.

Does Cousins make the Falcons a favorite to win the NFC South? Carr’s arrival did that for the Saints last year, and they finished 9-8 but lost a tiebreaker to the Bucs, who won the division for a third year in a row. Atlanta’s 2024 schedule includes the Falcons — and Cousins — playing a game against the Vikings in MInnesota.

Had the Falcons missed out on Cousins, they faced a considerable drop-off at the position. They could have traded draft picks to the Bears for Justin Fields, or packaged future draft picks to move up from No. 8 to the top few spots in this year’s draft with the hopes of getting a franchise quarterback there.

Now, with Cousins in place, the Falcons can stay at No. 8 in the draft, perhaps getting their pick of any defensive player in the class, or getting one of the elite receivers in the draft to pair with London. Atlanta will be limited in its additional free-agent spending now, having used a considerable chunk of its remaining cap space to land the biggest contract in this year’s class.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.


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