How Kirk Cousins signing with Falcons impacts Justin Fields, Vikings, Justin Jefferson & QBs in 2024 NFL Draft

Kirk Cousins has found a third NFL team to pay him top-market value. Cousins, after an even six seasons each with Washington and Minnesota, is set to play his 13th year in Atlanta after agreeing to a four-year, $180 million deal with the Falcons.

Cousins will turn 36 in August and is coming off a 2023 season cut short by a torn Achilles. When healthy, he remained proficient and efficient with his elite deep passing with top-flight weapons.

The Falcons wanted a major upgrade in their new offense under former Rams assistant Zac Robinson. Cousins made the sense, having played under former Rams assistant Kevin O’Connell the previous two seasons. While Atlanta gets excited about a new veteran QB who can better unlock its skilled weapons, Cousins exiting Minnesota creates aftershocks that will be felt across the league. Here’s how Cousins’ signing impacts a lot of situations, starting with the last available, desirable QB:

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Where can the Bears now trade Justin Fields?

Cousins going to the Falcons came on the heels of Russell Wilson signing with the Steelers. Those were two hot rumored destinations for Justin Fields. The Bears are looking to trade their QB so they can be clear to draft Caleb Williams No. 1 overall as their next franchise passer.

The Commanders and Patriots now come to mind as the best remaining suitors, but those teams are attached more to rookies Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels with the Nos. 2 and No. 3 picks in the draft, respectively. The Broncos are in a tough salary spot to try to go after Fields to replace Wilson.

The best trade landing spot for Fields now is the Raiders, who employ his former Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy but just signed Gardner Minshew to a two-year deal. The Vikings would be in the mix, but unfortunately, the Bears are unlikely to help their divisional rivals trade to fill a void at the most important position, either with Fields or the No. 1 pick.

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What will the Vikings do at QB without Kirk Cousins?

The Vikings should be looking for a veteran bridge who can easily start over the mess of Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall that replaced an injured Cousins last year. Sam Darnold, a 49ers free agent, has been attached to them thanks to the familiar ex-Jets presence of Josh McCown as the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach. Minnesota native Trey Lance has also been rumored as a potential trade target.

The Vikings must then take advantage of the situation as they save big money from Cousins for a change. That means targeting a rookie QB to compete to play right away, either in the first or second round of the draft. Another cheap veteran to watch other than Darnold is Carson Wentz. He had some exposure to the Rams’ system late last season, one that Minnesota runs under O’Connell.

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Justin Jefferson

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How does this affect Justin Jefferson signing a long-term Vikings contract?

Jefferson has said that Cousins remaining his QB would be a big factor in him agreeing to a lucrative contract extension in Minnesota that would make him the highest-paid wide receiver of all-time. Jefferson also understands that not paying Cousins top dollar also makes it easier for Minnesota to sign him to such a contract.

The Vikings already took advantage of the financial flexibility by adding edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel to Brian Flores’ defense. Jefferson needs more than $30 million in average salary and $75 million in practical guarantees to be the highest-paid wide receiver. He may be bummed about Cousins, but that pain can be eased by Minnesota’s improved resources to get the deal done.

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What does this do to the second-tier QB prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft?

The Falcons are picking No. 8 overall in the first round without needing a QB. The Vikings, now without Cousins, pick three spots later at No. 11. With Williams, Maye, and Daniels likely still to go to 1-2-3 to Chicago, Washington, and New England, there’s more of a mystery where J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. will go.

Do the Giants get aggressive and go after McCarthy or Nix to replace Daniel Jones at No. 6? If they don’t, it would mean those guys are on the board for the Vikings. The next most likely teams to draft a QB are then right behind them, the Broncos at No. 12 and the Raiders at No. 13.

Should the Giants not go QB at No. 6, then the Titans (No. 7), Falcons (No. 8), Bears (No. 9), and Jets (No. 10) are in prime position to trade down. Either Denver or Las Vegas can jump Minnesota to get its prospect of choice between McCarthy and Nix. The Seahawks at No. 16 would be a sneaky team to watch to go up the board to get a contingency for Geno Smith. 

If only McCarthy and Nix are taken to make it five QBs in the first round, then the early second round would give someone a shot at Penix. The Vikings ultimately might be faced with the decision of Nix in Round 1 or Penix in Round. 2.

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