Washington finds itself in a mess right now with quarterback Kirk Cousins. The team is expected to designate him with their franchise tag before Wednesday’s deadline. It will mark the second straight season they have used the tag on Cousins. A third usage in 2018 would require a 44 percent raise, while the transition tag would require a smaller raise, but leave him free to sign an offer sheet without necessary draft pick compensation.
Over the past week, we have heard quite a bit about how problematic things are in Washington. This afternoon, Charles Robinson broke down how badly Washington has screwed up the financial situation with Cousins. Meanwhile, ESPN reporter John Keim had a great read on Cousins’ leverage over Washington right now.
The most interesting part of Keim’s report? The fact that he is hearing the 49ers are the only team with whom Cousins would sign if he had the chance:
[Washington’s] 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 [Washington] to maximize his trade value on the market.
If it is 49ers or bust for Cousins, Washington has effectively zero trade leverage. Robinson’s article breaks down the unprecedented guaranteed money Washington could be facing based on the tag and a potential transition tag or third franchise tag in 2018. They have screwed this up royally, and they either will pay through the nose for Cousins, or restart at the QB position.
My initial thought if Kyle Shanahan wants Cousins would be to wait Washington out this year, and likely get Cousins for a contract but no draft picks next offseason. However, there are arguments to be made for making a deal now. Chris Biderman laid out why it benefits the 49ers, Kirk Cousins, and Washington to do a deal this offseason. For the 49ers, Biderman talked about how it would “drastically expedite” the 49ers rebuilding project, and they would not have to worry about finding one in the draft.
It really comes down to what kind of deal they can do for Cousins. KNBR writer Kevin Jones suggested a deal of Kirk Cousins and Washington’s 17th overall pick for the 49ers first and second round picks, and a third round pick in 2018. What do you think of something like that?
49ers get: Kirk Cousins, 17th overall pick— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) February 28, 2017
WSH gets: No. 2 overall pick, No. 34 overall, 2018 3rd rounder
It’s a tough call. On the one hand, if Shanahan is sold on Cousins, he gets his guy and pushes the rebuilding process forward that much quicker. Furthermore, waiting a year assumes no injury for Cousins, or no other team emerging and pushing Cousins contract price further up.
On the other hand, the 49ers have a ton of cap space, so money-wise, I don’t think it is a problem. And again, waiting it out means they don’t lose picks that can produce serious impact players this year. It comes down to whether or not the 49ers want to roll the dice and wait until next year, or roll the dice and give up the picks such a deal would take.
There is a whole other argument to be made whether you or I think Kirk Cousins is really the guy to build around. If the 49ers make a move for him, we will spend the rest of the offseason and beyond arguing about that. For the time being, we are left to put our faith in what Kyle Shanahan thinks is best at the quarterback position.