Kirk Cousins’ Contract Details: When Can the Falcons Get Out of His Deal?

The Falcons stirred up controversy by drafting Michael Penix Jr. after signing Kirk Cousins. How soon could Atlanta move on from Cousins' contract?

The Atlanta Falcons made big waves this offseason with their signing of Kirk Cousins in free agency to shore up recent inconsistent play at quarterback. Atlanta turned perhaps even more heads during the 2024 NFL Draft, however, when it added another QB to the fray in Michael Penix Jr.

Where does that move leave the Falcons, this season and into the future?

A Look at Kirk Cousins’ Contract

Cousins signed a four-year contract worth up to $180 million with the Falcons at the start of free agency, giving the 35-year-old a chance to potentially stick around in Atlanta until he’s 39. It’s certainly a sizable deal for the aging veteran who is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury in 2023.

Here are the key details of the contract:

  • $180 million ($45 million per year)
  • $50 million signing bonus
  • $100 million in guarantees
  • $90 million for 2024 and 2025, fully guaranteed
  • $10 million for 2026 becomes fully guaranteed in March 2025

Cousins’ deal also cements him among the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL by average annual value. He sits behind Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson, while Cousins’ figure is tied with Patrick Mahomes and just above Josh Allen.

When Can the Atlanta Falcons Get Out of Cousins’ Contract?

Much of the controversy that came with Atlanta drafting Penix boiled down to the franchise having already invested heavily in Cousins this offseason and thus, in the best-case scenario, Penix will not see the field for the next few years.

If things do go south for Cousins and the Falcons, though, the franchise certainly has some options to get out of his contract early.

The most favorable scenario after this season for Atlanta cap-wise would be trading Cousins post-June 1, as it could then minimize dead money on the salary cap docket to just $12.5 million per year for any remaining years of the deal due to Cousins’ signing bonus, according to Over the Cap.

That route comes with challenges, however, as Cousins has a no-trade clause and could thus veto any move to a team he does not wish to play for and force the Falcons to cut him, allowing him to sign anywhere.

 

Atlanta has essentially zero incentive to cut Cousins before 2026 since his 2025 salary is already fully guaranteed.

Cutting Cousins in 2026 would bring a steep cost of $35 million in dead money, according to Over the Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald, a figure that factors in two years of Cousins’ signing bonus money along with a $10 million roster bonus for the 2026 season. The price tag of cutting Cousins in 2027 would be $12.5 million in dead cap, according to Over the Cap.

KEEP READING: NFL QB Rankings 2024

Needless to say, Atlanta will have options to move on from Cousins down the line if needed, though some would certainly be more beneficial salary cap-wise than others.

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