With the 49ers planning to hire Kyle Shanahan to coach the team and currently having a quarterback depth chart that consists of Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder, the next question becomes whether the 49ers will make a play for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins.
In 2012, Washington made Kirk Cousins a fourth-round draft pick. Then-coach Mike Shanahan has repeatedly raved about Cousins, and Kyle Shanahan ran the offense in Washington for the first two years of Cousins’ career.
Cousins, who was subject to the franchise tag in 2016, would be entitled to $23.94 million in 2017 if Washington tags him again. Washington could, in theory, apply the exclusive version of the tag (which would potentially drive that number much higher) in order to block the 49ers or anyone else from trying to pilfer Cousins.
However, the non-exclusive tag would give Washington a pair of first-round picks as compensation for Cousins, and San Francisco holds the second overall selection in round one. Washington arguably would be thrilled to flip Cousins for the No. 2 pick in 2017 plus wherever the 49ers land in the first round next year.
Washington also could tag Cousins and trade him for less than two first-round picks.
The situation quickly becomes a high-stakes game of chess, checkers, and chicken for Washington, the 49ers, and Cousins. To preserve the ability to trade Cousins, Washington will have to be prepared to commit $23.94 million in cash and cap space to him. If Cousins promptly signs the tender (like he did in 2016) and they can’t trade Cousins, Washington will be stuck, with Cousins getting $23.94 million for one year, being entitled to $34.47 million under the tag in 2018, and wanting a long-term deal based on those figures.
The situation makes it imperative for the 49ers and Washington to quickly flesh out a non-binding plan for making a deal happen when the new league year opens in March, if the 49ers want Cousins, if Cousins wants the 49ers, and if the 49ers are willing to give both Washington and Cousins what they want in order to get it done. The fact that Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan previously served in that same role with the 49ers could expedite things, if Shanahan’s plan for fixing the 49ers offense consists of bringing to the Bay Area that quarterback with whom Shanahan worked in 2012 and 2013.