Another day, another quarterback tied to the 49ers in a rumor. This time, it’s a familiar face with a familiar reporter attached. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio joined 95.7 The Game on Monday morning saying that Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins “is much more realistic alternative for the 49ers than Deshaun Watson.”
Cousins will be 33 by the time the regular season starts and under contract for two more seasons. If traded, The Vikings would have to eat about $9 million in dead money in 2021. Cousins’ cap number for 2021 is $31 million.
Here’s what Florio had to say:
Cousins steps right in and runs the offense. He knows the offense. It’s a guy that Kyle Shanahan and his dad, Mike Shanahan, drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, at a time when Robert Griffin III was essentially forced upon them by ownership. Cousins is a guy that Shanahan believes can run that offense well.
We can argue about whether Cousins is an upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo or not. Both run similar offenses, with Gary Kubiak calling the plays in Minnesota. Here are nine stats, courtesy of Football Outsiders and Sports Info Solutions. I used Cousins numbers from this year, and Garoppolo’s numbers are from ‘19:
Cousins, with a star rookie receiver, Adam Thielen, who is a better wideout than Deebo Samuel, and a strong running game, Cousins was marginally better than Jimmy G. Again, it’s not fair to compare two separate situations as apples to apples, but these two offenses are as close as it gets.
Are you willing to move on from Jimmy for a QB that’s a little bit better? That doesn’t seem logical on the surface. The question turns into a “no” once you factor in how much Cousins is making.
Cousins has missed one start in six seasons. That’s his saving grace here. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a veteran quarterback who can hit the deep throws — Cousins is significantly better at hitting receivers in stride down the field, or at least giving his targets a chance than Jimmy has been — but the sacks and “oh no, Kirk,” throws are difficult to ignore.
Another selling point Florio sold was that Cousins wouldn’t cost as much draft capital as other quarterbacks under contract or if the 49ers wanted to trade into the top five:
“I can’t see the Vikings demanding a whole lot if they would decide to move on from Kirk Cousins. ... I think that’s something that the 49ers should definitely explore, and if the Vikings know what’s good for them, frankly, in all due respect to Kirk Cousins and the team, they’ll decide to make a move.”
If you polled the most trustworthy QB gurus in the country, I’d bet the majority would take Cousins over Garoppolo. For San Francisco, it’s not that simple. Yes, you no longer have to worry about the health of your starting quarterback. Yes, your deep passing game opens up.
Cousins has the ninth-highest cap number in the NFL for 2021 among all quarterbacks. Deshaun Watson is intriguing because he’s objectively a top-five — at worst — quarterback who has the 16th-highest cap number and the 19th-highest cash spent. Cousins gets $21 million in cash this upcoming season, which is also ninth in the NFL.
I’d argue that expectations would be even higher with Cousins than Jimmy. If you move on from Garoppolo and don’t reach the Super Bowl, you’re going to hear all about it, even if Cousins, or whoever replaces Jimmy G hypothetically, isn’t the sole reason why the team doesn’t make the final game of the season. That could be why we see No. 10 back in the Bay Area next year: He’s the best option available.