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The most surprising development of the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft Thursday night was unquestionably the Atlanta Falcons picking University of Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8 overall. There were rumors that Penix could come off the board in the top 15 or 20 picks, but pegging Atlanta as a landing spot didn't seem to make all that much sense. After all, the Falcons just handed Kirk Cousins $180 million to be their starting quarterback for the next few years.

One of the many, many people surprised and taken aback by the pick was former NFL general manager Rick Spielman, who shared his thoughts on the matter with Ryan Wilson on CBS Sports' "With the First Pick" podcast.

"The moves that the Atlanta Falcons made this offseason -- signing Kirk Cousins, getting [Darnell] Mooney from Chicago, getting Rondale Moore from Arizona -- was kind of an, 'OK, we can win the NFC South. Now we can add to the defense in the draft. This should give us the ability to potentially be the lead dog in the NFC South and maybe advance in the playoffs,'" Spielman said. 

"But a move like this -- and I get the explanation, when you hear it, it's like, 'Well, we're planning for the future as well,' because they don't think they'll be picking in the top 10 ever again. So, this was a little bit like Green Bay, when they had Brett Favre and they drafted Aaron Rodgers. When they had Aaron Rodgers, they drafted Jordan Love. But those picks were in the 20s. Those weren't the top 10. 

"You had an opportunity to maybe take a top-10 player that would make a difference not only this year but down the road, and they elected to go quarterback. Now, who knows, because Kirk Cousins, I think they can get out of the contract after the next two years. But who knows with the quarterback class. It may not be as strong next year, but I don't even know what the 2026 class is going to look like yet. You can probably have filled it then."

As Wilson pointed out, Texas quarterback Arch Manning is expected to come out in 2026, and while two years is a long way away and anything can happen, that also means other options can emerge between now and then. And if the Falcons get out of Cousins' contract in two years, they will still have to take on the dead-money cap hit in 2026, 2027, or both, and thus will be unable to reap the full benefits of having a quarterback on a rookie-scale contract. And that's not to mention that Penix is already 24 years old, and could be 28 or 29 by the time the team's succession plan is complete. 

"It was hard to wrap around what they were thinking," Spielman said. "You understand it, a little bit, just with getting that position solidified not only with Kirk Cousins now, but also Michael Penix Jr. in the future so they don't have to worry about this position for maybe -- hopefully -- the next 10 years and they can build around these two quarterbacks."

Of course, that assumes that everything goes perfectly according to the Falcons' plan -- and that they're right about Penix being the pick. Also, if the team felt as strongly about him as general manager Terry Fontenot claimed to during his post-draft press conference, there's an obvious question that needs to be asked, as Spielman said: "If Michael Penix Jr. was your guy, why would you spend all that money on Kirk Cousins, knowing that you could probably get Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick?"