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Assistant GM Kyle Smith confident in Falcons quarterback situation for next 5 years — 'minimum'

The conversation surrounding the Falcons' No. 8 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft continues. This time, assistant general manager Kyle Smith addresses the matter. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — It appears the Atlanta Falcons have been itching to be in their current quarterback situation since 2021, when general manager Terry Fontenot joined the team.

Around that same time, Kyle Smith also came on board. He was originally hired as the vice president of player personnel and has since been promoted to assistant general manager last year.

Fontenot and Smith's first NFL Draft together happened three months after their arrival.

"It was an unsettling feeling, sitting there in '21," Smith said Tuesday. "I'll never forget sitting there with Terry and being like, 'OK, well, what's our future? What's our plan for the future? How are we going to solidify down the road?'

"It's not just about this year or next year. It's about five years minimum."

Especially at quarterback.

Atlanta still had Matt Ryan in 2021, but he was about to enter his 14th season. In hindsight, he only had two left in him, officially retiring earlier this month with 15 seasons to his name. Regardless, Ryan was going to be on his way out – sooner rather than later, too.

"There were a lot of variables – when we first got here – in terms of cap and cash and where you're at as a team and trying to build," Smith said. "But we were always looking aggressively for the heir apparent, the down-the-road solution at that position."

In 2021, the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall. The three picks prior were all quarterbacks. The next passer wasn't taken until No. 11.

In 2022, the Falcons took wide receiver Drake London at No. 8. There was only one quarterback taken in the first round, and it was later at No. 20.

In 2023, the Falcons chose running back Bijan Robinson at No. 8. Three quarterbacks had already been picked by then, all within the top four.

Alas, the most recent draft: 2024.

"This is the first year that we were sitting there and staring down the barrel at a player that we think can be that guy," Smith said.

The Falcons picked quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8.

However, there's a catch: The Falcons already had a quarterback. They signed veteran Kirk Cousins to a four-year $180 million contract as soon as free agency began back in March.

"What we did to get Kirk Cousins should tell everybody what we believe in Kirk Cousins," Smith said. "He's our guy. We set ourselves up.

"Then, in the draft, Michael Penix was there. It's a quarterback – a young quarterback – that we believe in. We pulled that trigger.

"I mean, that's as clear as I can say it."

Present vs. future.

Fontenot and head coach Raheem Morris were just as clear as Smith: Cousins is QB1 in 2024. Penix will learn and develop behind Cousins.

The reigns will eventually and inevitably have to trade hands. That's OK now. That's the plan.

"For the next five years, we feel great about the position," Smith said. "Minimum."

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