The San Francisco 49ers face Washington this week, and naturally that has raised some discussion about the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is under contract to Washington this year, and they have the option of placing the franchise tag on him a third straight year next offseason. They could still extend him or also use the transition tag.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Mike Sando chatted with various anonymous NFL executives to get their thoughts on the future of Kirk Cousins. They discussed a variety of topics including potential landing spots, what Washington might decide, and what some of the already completed decisions might say about the whole process.
The executives had a variety of opinions on how this will play out. Several see him following Kyle Shanahan to the 49ers. Some think there is no way Washington doesn’t pay up. And some think it could depend on head coach stability.
One angle that I found interesting was the fact that the Cousins camp did not make an offer to Washington. One executive thinks that makes it clear Cousins wants out.
"What really stands out to me, and what no one is making a big enough deal about, is that Cousins' side never made an offer to the [Washington]," this exec said. "What does that tell you? It tells you the player does not want to be there and that he will stay only if the team overpays him by a lot. Cousins would look bad if he said he'd take $30 million a year, so he doesn't make an offer, which shows he doesn't want to be there at a fair salary."
I had not really thought about that, but it makes some sense. If Cousins wanted to stay, he could have thrown a sizable price out there and that would be that. Instead, he left Washington to effectively negotiate against themselves. Cousins has said he would like the continuity of sticking around, but if he wants to remain, why not just go to them with a number you think is fair and see what kind of response they provide?
At the same time, we don’t know everything going on in these negotiations, so we’re left with a certain amount of speculation.
There are a host of possible landing spots in a league where a lot of teams do not have a 100 percent firm answer at quarterback. The Cleveland Browns and New York Jets are the most obvious landing spots. The Los Angeles Rams were a possible option for a reunion with Sean McVay, but Jared Goff is starting to emerge there.
Other options mentioned include the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Minnesota Vikings. The teams that have some questions include the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Cincinnati Bengals. Teams with a veteran in place that may or may not face questions in the near future include the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Los Angeles Chargers.
Other teams could offer plenty of money, but a potential Shanahan-Cousins reunion still makes a lot of sense. One executive thinks the 49ers are “putting all their eggs in Cousins’ basket,” thinking Kyle Shanahan will love him more than any of the college quarterbacks next spring.
"That is the only reason that the 49ers have acted the way they are acting and Kirk is acting the way he is acting."
Whatever the case, we will be left to wait until at least January, and probably longer to see how this plays out. Cousins cannot negotiate a new deal with Washington until the season ends. The franchise tag deadline is end of February or early March, and then free agency starts a couple weeks later. We’ll be waiting until then to see the next steps in this process.