Falcons’ Raheem Morris, Terry Fontenot on getting Kirk Cousins

ORLANDO — After doing a deep dive into the quarterback position this offseason, Falcons coach Raheem Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot made it a priority to get an established quarterback.

The Falcons considered their options before signing Kirk Cousins to a lucrative four-year deal worth up to $180 million March 13, the first day of the new NFL business year.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a chance to win football games,” Morris said Tuesday at the NFL owners’ meeting. “If you have a quarterback, you have a chance.”

Fontenot said, “Really (dove) into evaluating the whole position from the draft to the players that were available in free agency ... that was very important to really dive into that and find what was right for us. What was going to fit what we wanted to do schematically.”

Cousins has played 12 years in the league with the Commanders (2012-17) and the Vikings (2018-23).

The Falcons had other options.

Baker Mayfield re-signed with the Buccaneers. Russell Wilson signed with the Steelers, who also later traded for Justin Fields. The Falcons are set to draft eighth in the first round and would have had to trade up to land one of the top quarterbacks.

So, everything for the Falcons kept pointing to Cousins.

“Getting him in free agency was a help for us,” Morris said. “It was a big move for us. It was huge for us. Gives us the best chance to win football games and go out there and compete every single weekend.”

The Falcons felt Cousins was superior to the veterans and the quarterbacks who will be available in the coming draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Detroit.

“With the experience that he brings, the knowledge that he brings, our long and in-depth relationship, I’ve known him since he was a rookie, all of those things,” Morris said.

Also, Cousins is familiar with the offense the Falcons’ plan to run. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell previously was with the Rams. Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson and Morris came from the Rams.

“We have very like-minded beliefs,” Morris said.

The Falcons traded quarterback Desmond Ridder to the Cardinals for wide receiver Rondale Moore.

“Kirk was certainly a high priority for us,” Morris said. “It was one of those things that we wanted to go out there and try to establish pretty early.”

In addition to Robinson, Morris has several former quarterbacks on his coaching staff.

“I thought it was important to surround myself with all of those guys so that we can have a like-minded approach to what we wanted to do from an offensive standpoint,” Morris said. “I thought the team did a really good job of getting together and providing as much information as we could to both our owner (Arthur Blank), to Terry and to our scouting department.

“We came up with a plan to get the established quarterback to have the success that we want to have this year.”

Morris noted that he was on the Washington staff when Cousins was drafted in the fourth round in 2012.

Morris was the head coach of the Buccaneers from 2009-11. In his first season, he started Josh Johnson (0-3), Byron Leftwich (0-4) and rookie Josh Freeman (3-6). Freeman was the starter 2010 when the Bucs went 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs. The Bucs were 4-12 in 2011, and Morris was fired.

“I know what it’s like trying to coach without one,” Morris said. “That’s a tough call. I wanted to try to see if I could avoid that as much as possible and as early as possible. Getting a guy like Kirk, a guy with that type of experience really helped us. It was more about the opportunity to go out there and win. We are built to win. We have the ability that we can win. We have people that we can win with.”

The Falcons are hopeful that Cousins, when he recovers from his ruptured Achilles, will blend in well with the team’s offensive weapons.

“I thought it was a good idea to find a quarterback who could help us win right now,” Morris said. “When you have a chance to get an established guy … you can’t pass that up. You can’t pass up that opportunity to get that kind of guy to add to your building.”

Ridder did not request a trade and was a candidate to stay with the team as the young, developmental quarterback.

“Desmond is a great kid,” Morris said. “He did not come to us and demand a trade. He did not come to us and do anything like that. He was in (the facility) working out, doing the things he was supposed to do.

The Cardinals called with a proposal.

“The opportunity presented itself for us to add speed to our (receivers group),” Morris said. “Desmond went out with class. ... I’m excited for him to get a fresh start.”

With Cousins still recovering from the early November surgery, the Falcons thought it was important to retain veteran backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

“He has shown that he’s been an elite backup in this league,” Morris said. “When you’re talking about an elite backup, you’re talking about a guy who comes in the game and can win you a game until your starter gets back. And boom, not miss a beat. Not need the reps that are required to go out there and execute. He’s shown all of those things.”

The Falcons will add another quarterback, possibly in the draft.

“We’ll have to go back and re-evaluate those guys for the draft again because our situation has changed,” Morris said.

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