As much as it pains me to say this, I’m kind of warming up to the idea of the 49ers trading for Kirk Cousins. Mostly because the more I think about it, the more it seems like a logical result considering recent events, team needs, and expected cost.
From ESPN’s John Keim:
The Redskins’ problem is that there’s only one team Cousins will sign with right now, according to one source: San Francisco. So Washington doesn’t have much bargaining power with other teams. This isn’t just about Cousins maximizing his financial value; it’s about putting himself in the best position. Reuniting with a coach (Kyle Shanahan) who loves you in an offense you love? That’s a win-win for Cousins. But it’s a tough way for the Redskins to maximize his trade value on the market.
Wow, he only wants to play for his current team or the 49ers? Things really have changed in Santa Clara. Then again …
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) February 28, 2017
Hmmmm … other than the phrase “#Browns intriguing” throwing me off (much in the same way “#BurgerKing organic” might), I’m not sure if I can take Jason Cole’s tweet at face value. Why wouldn’t Washington put this idea out there to keep the 49ers honest and create at least a little leverage for themselves?
No one can be counted on to tell the truth, at least not until after the draft … and probably not even then.
The truth is this: the 49ers have money and need a quarterback, they would be happy with Cousins, and Cousins is getting really, really expensive.
Yesterday Cousin’s team (for now) decided they were going to place the exclusive franchise take on him AND pull him off the table. No trade to the Niners … according to the NFL Network’s lead reporter, anyway.
Ian Rapoport in his own words (as transcribed by Niners Nation):
“It is a decision [Washington] made, that he is not going anywhere. Because it is the exclusive and not the non-exclusive tag, Cousins is going to make $24 million, that much is sure. He’s gonna be on a one-year deal. But he is not going anywhere. And really, [Washington], what they did was, answer one of the biggest questions of the 2017 offseason with one move. They decided they are not going to trade him to the San Francisco 49ers, they’ve decided they are not going to trade him anywhere. He is going to be their quarterback for the next year, and that is that. The other part of this is, for Kirk Cousins’ future, still I believe 27, he’s not been tagged twice. This basically makes him tag-proof for the rest of his career, because a third tag would be at a 40 percent increase, something no team is going to do. So really, at 27 years old, having made $44 million over last year and this year, unable to be tagged again, Kirk Cousins is doing very well in life, let’s just say that.”
Again, don’t take anything at face value. All apologies to Rapoport, but this also kind of sounds like a team posturing to get a better offer for a quarterback who’s in a great financial position. Especially if you see some logic in what Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman wrote today:
Washington is going to try to trade its newly franchise-tagged quarterback, no matter what it may say publicly.
Why? It almost has to.
An agent walked me through the economics, and they are stark. Cousins’ exclusive franchise tag essentially translates to a one-year deal worth just under $24 million.
If Cousins plays under that deal, he would then be a free agent next season, allowing him to walk and leave Washington nothing in return.
That is, unless Washington franchised Cousins again, which would guarantee him approximately $34 million.
There is no way in hell Washington will pay him that. No. Way. In. Hell.
That means Washington either lets Cousins walk or it trades him. The franchise likely won’t let him walk for nothing in return.
That leaves one option, so don’t be surprised to see Cousins on another team. Maybe soon.
Pretty logical, wouldn’t you say?
Then, look at it from the 49ers’ side:
- Colin Kaepernick’s new agents told every team that he will opt out and become a free agent (which means Kap’s so-called “positive discussion” with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan couldn’t have gone that well, at least as far as Kaepernick’s chances of staying with the 49ers are concerned).
- Other than a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers’ options are limited if they want a quarterback with at least some NFL experience to start Week 1.
- Unless Shanahan loves the 2017 crop of draft-eligible quarterbacks a lot more than Mike Mayock, a rookie isn’t the answer. (A rookie quarterback is rarely the answer in any year, but that option looks particularly bad in 2017.)
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “‘i don’t have any quarterbacks anywhere near the top 10, I think there are 4 QBs that have first-round talent.”
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) February 27, 2017
This is all a roundabout way of writing that the 49ers are beggars, and we all know what that means.
Cousins has never impressed me as having the intangibles I believe a quarterback requires to lead a team to playoff wins on a semi-regular basis. However, I can’t deny two things: (1) I could very well be wrong and (2) he fits the bill in several key areas.
- He turns 29 during training camp, which means if he’s really good he can start for a long time. Conversely, if he’s merely average it won’t be too difficult to replace him with a guy they draft in 2017 or 2018.
- His numbers over the last two seasons are quite gaudy: 9,083 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) and 54 touchdowns. By the way, Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert combined for 9,290 yards (6.2 ypa) and 57 touchdowns over the last THREE years.
- There would be no getting-to-know-you period between head coach/OC and quarterback, and Cousins could get the rest of the offense up to speed in less time than just about anyone else they could sign. Which, in turn, would more accurately tell the 49ers which offensive linemen, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends are worth keeping.
Are we all supposed to care about Kirk Cousins for a few days? Is that what we’re doing? Because I don’t know if I’m capable of that.
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) February 28, 2017
After sleeping on it, I guess I’m capable. Unless Washington decides to stand firm and force themselves into choosing between two crappy options a year from now, it seems like a trade is probably coming unless they work out a long-term extension with Cousins, which they seem in no hurry to do. And when we combine the new head coach’s history with the team’s massive cap space and desperate need for quarterbacks, Cousins-to-the-Niners makes more sense than Cousins-to-any-other-team.
If New England was willing to deal Garoppolo (there are conflicting reports about whether that’s the case), that would be the move I’d make (in a parallel universe where the 49ers made me their general manager and gave me absolute power over the roster and budget). But at Cousins’ age and current salary, he’d probably fetch a little less in a trade than Garoppolo, even though the latter will be a free agent after the 2017 season.
So, unless the 49ers are planning to slum it with Brian Hoy-vay or Matt Schlub, Cousins has a good chance at being the guy. And that’s … fine. Maybe even better than fine. At worst, it would be a lot better than watching Jay Cutler sulk for 16 games. Dreadful thought? Absolutely, but that’s how low we’ve been forced to set the bar after Trent Baalke spent years acting as if the most important position on the field is actually cornerback.