The San Francisco 49ers are in a good position to add a quarterback this offseason, but unfortunately, the market is not particularly great. The best free agent option right now is Kirk Cousins, with the potential for Tony Romo and Jay Cutler to hit the open market. The draft class includes some intriguing prospects, but each one of them has significant red flags.
When Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch agreed to become head coach and GM, respectively, Jed York signed them to six-year contracts. It is possible Jed gets impatient and we’re doing this sooner rather than later, but I am inclined to think Shanahan and Lynch get a lore more time than that.
In light of that, the 49ers new brain trust is in a position to be patient at the quarterback position. You want to find somebody sooner rather than later, but you do not want to force the situation. On Friday, Shanahan admitted as much in his first interview with KNBR. He said they cannot make an impulsive move because you don’t want the quarterback to be a quick fix.
That brings us to Kirk Cousins. He played last season under the franchise tag, and there is a strong likelihood Washington places the tag on him this year for a second straight season. Last year, he earned just under $20 million with the one-year tender, and this year he would earn just under $24 million. Someone could work out a trade for him, but his salary would climb considerably under a third franchise tag next year. He would be due a 44 percent raise, which would mean a salary of over $34 million.
If that is the case, why trade a high pick this year if you are comfortable waiting a year? Former Washington beat writer (and current writer at The Undefeated) Jason Reid was on Tim Kawakami’s podcast on Friday, and he discussed the Cousins-Shanahan dynamic. TK asked him if Kyle Shanahan would make a bee-line for Cousins at this point. Here’s what Reid had to say.
[Washington] can shut everything down. If [they] were to offer Kirk Cousins the exact contract he wants down to the last penny, in terms of the guaranteed money and the average, I think he stays in Washington. But all indications are that that’s not where [they] are, that’s not where their thinking is with Kirk Cousins. They tagged him last year at like $19.95 million, the thinking is they’re gonna tag him this year at $23.95 million. I definitely think that Kyle would want Kirk, because Kyle was a big reason that [Washington] drafted Kirk. After [they] took Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan made it clear, look, ownership has a guy they wanted, so Shanahan wanted someone that Kyle really wanted, that Kyle could work with, and Kyle stood on a table for Kirk. And Kyle kept telling them, look, this is the guy, this is the guy, this is the guy. Even when Griffin had that great first year, Kyle even at that point, said, look, this guy’s gonna be a Pro Bowl quarterback. I thought he was crazy, I’m not gonna lie. I thought the guy was out of his mind.
I say all that to say that if Kirk Cousins had been a free agent this offseason, then Kyle Shanahan would make a bee-line to him. And Kirk Cousins thinks a lot of Kyle Shanahan — they have a very good relationship, Kyle has always believed in him, he knows that. So I think if Kirk Cousins was not contractually bound to anyone, he would be, I think in San Francisco. I think that’s a very, the odds are very good on that. But, in terms of whether or not Kyle’s gonna try and trade for him, San Francisco has the No. 2 overall, I can’t, again, pure speculation on my part, I can’t see them trying to give up the No. 2 overall pick for a quarterback who, if [Washington] tags Cousins this year, the likelihood is they’re not gonna tag him again next year. So, if that’s a place that Kyle wants to go, and I think it would be a place he wants to go, why wouldn’t we just wait it out a year? It’s not like Kyle’s on a two-year contract with a third year team option. He’s got six years. I think he can give this thing a little time, even if it’s just another season, and wait it out.
On Thursday, Reid tweeted that some former Washington officials said Cousins does not want to remain with Washington long-term, and would prefer the tag so he could likely get out after this season. Given his comments in Kawakami’s podcast, it sounds more like a money issue than having a problem with the region or ownership. If Washington is willing to pay up, he will stick around, but it sounds like the team is not willing to make the kind of commitment Cousins wants.
If Shanahan is willing to wait on Cousins, it would not surprise me to see someone like Brian Hoyer or Matt Schaub signed, and then a QB added in the draft. Colin Kaepernick remains a possibility until we hear otherwise, but whomever they add, the idea would be, let’s see what they can do in the short term, and then make a play for Cousins if things have not improved sufficiently a year from now. I think no matter what they must draft a quarterback this year. It does not have to be at No. 2, but I am of the Ron Wolf school of thought that you should be drafting a developmental quarterback option most years. We’ll see what kind of philosophy Shanahan and Lynch bring to the table.