The Price of Michael Penix, Jr.: Did the Falcons risk too much?

Terry Fontenot was a part of that 2017 New Orleans Saints team that infamously got jumped by the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This sequence of events influenced their decision to keep their interest in Michael Penix, Jr. as much of a secret for as long as possible.

On the surface, given the reports other teams were interested in Penix, it made sense for Atlanta to keep their intentions secretive, especially with a potential trade candidate in the Tennessee Titans picking right before the Falcons at eight. However, with this decision, they are playing a dangerous game full of risk and paid a hefty price to ensure nobody could follow their scent.

First, they solidified the quarterback position by signing soon-to-be-36-year-old Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed. With this, the Falcons made it seem they would go all-in on the present day, building a contender around Cousins with the start of the new regime. They went so far as to tamper and risk either this year’s or next year’s draft pick to sign him. This decision, and their persistence to sign Cousins, essentially put Atlanta out of the quarterback conversation at eight in the eyes of many across the league. Instead, Cousins became, as The Athletic’s Dianna Russini called it, “the most expensive smokescreen in NFL history.”

Penix never came into the facility in Flowery Branch for a top-30 visit with the Falcons. Given his medical history, anybody interested in Penix should have been bringing him in to get an inside look at his medicals and getting a second opinion from the team doctors that he was worth the risk. Then, when Atlanta took Penix, they risked the opportunity to add an impact player in 2024, making it that much more risky.

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So, let’s break this down, this regime has taken the risk of:

  • $100+ million on an older quarterback coming off a major injury
  • Future draft capital for tampering for the above quarterback
  • The opportunity to draft an impact player, more likely on defense in 2024 and
  • An older rookie with a significant injury history without getting an in-house second opinion

When you line it up, this is a risky proposition that many front offices would not have had the nerve to pull off. The Falcons liked Penix’s aggressiveness when pushing the ball downfield. It looks like Penix, Fontenot and Morris all have that confidence in common.

But suffice it to say, if the Falcons gain a decade-plus worth of quarterback stability, this is a risk that definitely paid off.

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