Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins - Jeffrey Becker - USA TODAY Sports
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Kirk Cousins Contract, Salary Cap Numbers for Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons got their quarterback on opening day of the NFL Free Agency contact period when it was announced they agreed to terms with veteran Kirk Cousins.

Mainstream media likes to sensationalize the biggest number they can find when reporting non-guaranteed NFL contracts. In this case, Cousins’s contract with the Falcons was reported to be 4-years and $180 million.

However, the only number that matters in NFL contracts is the guaranteed money. In this case, it was $100 million for the Falcons. That’s still a big number, but roughly half of what’s reported. The extra years on the contract are there to lessen the initial-salary cap hit as they spread the signing bonus across every year of the contract.

Of the $100-million guaranteed, $50 million was a signing bonus. Spread across four years, that puts his signing-bonus cap hit at $12.5-million per season. Cousins will make $12.5 million in base salary in 2024, making his total-cap hit this season just $25 million.

$25 million makes gives Cousins the 14th-highest cap hit among quarterbacks in the NFL according to Spotrac.

To put this in perspective, Justin Fields’s 5th year option, should someone pick it up, is $25.7 million.

The second year of Cousins deal escalates his base salary to $27.5 million. Add in the $12.5 million pro-rated signing bonus, and his 2025 cap hit is $40 million. That puts Cousins in the top 10, but that’s before any new contracts in 2025. He’ll likely be in the 10-12 range in 2025.

After 2025, two years into Cousins’s contract, the Falcons will have a choice to make. His base salary balloons to $27.5 million and he has a $10 million roster bonus. His cap number jumps to $57.5 million. However his dead cap drops to the two-remaining years of his pro-rated signing bonus… $25 million.

Simply, if Cousins is playing at a high level, the Falcons will restructure his contract and lower his 2026 cap number. If he’s not, they’ll move on and take a $25 million dead cap hit ($32.5 million in cap savings) and likely spread it across two seasons.

Obviously no team wants to absorb a dead-cap hit. But after watching the Falcons eat $83.6 million of dead-cap money in 2022 alone, $12.5 million for two years on a much bigger salary cap isn’t a concern.

The Atlanta Falcons survived cap hell in 2021 and 2022. The Kirk Cousins contract is rather team friendly. The Falcons are financially tied to Cousins for two seasons. There is still risk with a 36-year old quarterback coming off a season-ending achilles injury. However, the Falcons mitigated the financial risk.

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.