The San Francisco 49ers will be regularly connected to free agent Kirk Cousins between now and the start of March, as Kyle Shanahan eventually takes over as head coach. Washington head coach Jay Gruden told the media on Tuesday that he fully anticipates Cousins being around. Jason Cole talked about the team considering trade options, with the 49ers and Cleveland Browns potentially being on the list. And now Kirk Cousins has weighed in, sort of.
The Washington quarterback was asked about potentially returning to Washington in 2017 and beyond, and he said he would love to build things in Washington, but, “we’ll see if the decision-makers let that happen.”
Kirk Cousins on returning to DC: "I'd love to build something in Washington, we'll see if the decision-makers let that happen."— Dave Richard (@daverichard) January 25, 2017
"I don't know," Cousins told NFL.com following NFC practice on Wednesday. "I think you have to have an open mind but ultimately it's not in my hands in the sense that the team is going to make that decision and I'll react accordingly."
He added: "I'd love to have a crystal ball that tells me what I'm going to do next year and 50 years after that, but that's not life. And that's not life in this league. I'll just take it a year at a time and trust in the Lord's plan. Trust that he has a plan and whatever happens, he's in control."
I would have expected something positive about wanting to return, but it is interesting to see him add the comment about the decision-makers. Cousins and his agent are notable decision-makers in this process, but clearly he is speaking about Scot McCloughan and whomever else is involved in the contract negotiation process.
Washington has until late February to place a franchise tag on Cousins. If they do not use the tag, or they use the non-exclusive tag, they have exclusive negotiating rights until the new league year starts in mid-March. If they use the exclusive tag, nobody else can speak to Cousins or his agent about a contract.
That being said, if either tag is used, a trade remains a possibility. Whomever Washington might speak with about Cousins would get a window to work on a contract with the quarterback before any deal is reached. I imagine Washington would figure out pick compensation with one team, at which point Cousins and that team would work on a contract. If they could not come to terms, Washington would move on to another team.
Cap space is not an issue for Washington, so they could very well ride out another year with Cousins, but at some point they will need to either fish or cut bait.