The San Francisco 49ers are potentially going to lock up head coach candidate Kyle Shanahan this week, and as they continue their search for a general manager, the quarterback position will play a key role. On Sunday, NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said, “Do not be surprised if the 49ers make a run at Kirk Cousins if [Washington] do not make him their exclusive franchise player.”
The 49ers have four quarterbacks on their roster, including Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, and Thad Lewis. Gabbert, Ponder, and Lewis all are due to hit free agency, while Kaepernick can opt out of his contract in late February. Odds are decent the 49ers head into free agency with no quarterbacks on their roster.
The Shanahan family have been big on Kirk Cousins for some time. Cousins played this past season on the franchise tag, and put up big numbers. The team could franchise him a second time on the non-exclusive tag, but it is my understanding the fully guaranteed contract that comes with that would be high enough that it would make sense to consider the exclusive tag instead. Under the non-exclusive tag, a player can talk to other teams, who would have to give up draft picks to sign the player. Under the exclusive tag, a player cannot talk to any other teams. I don’t think this precludes a potential trade, but the 49ers would have to talk directly with Washington to potentially make something work.
The 49ers still have to actually finalize their head coach and GM positions before this can really go any further. But if Shanahan ends up with the job as most expect, I imagine we will hear frequent mentions of Cousins in the coming weeks.