It’s gradually becoming a foregone conclusion that Washington will apply the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins for a second time. Whether that means Cousins definitely will be with the team is a different issue.
Once it became obvious that the 49ers would hire coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers became an obvious potential destination for Cousins. So what would it take to make that happen? (Glad you asked, even if you didn’t.)
The first step will be setting trade compensation. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft arguably is too much; the teams could flip-flop the second and 17th picks for starters, with maybe something more (for example, the 49ers’ second-round pick) to get it done.
The harder part will be working out a contract with Cousins.
Since he’d have to be tagged before he’s traded, Cousins will be entitled to $23.94 million for 2017 prior to any contract being done with the 49ers. With the franchise tag and its 44-percent raise highly unlikely for 2018, Washington at most would apply the transition tag next year, which would increase the $23.05 million by another 20 percent — to $28.78 million. And so Cousins likely would want more than $52 million fully guaranteed over the first two years as part of a long-term deal to stay in Washington.
So here’s the real question: Would Cousins accept a deal that pays out less than $52 million over the first two years as part of a trade to San Francisco? He previously has made it clear he won’t take a hometown discount in Washington; would he extend a hometown discount to a new hometown that is ready and willing to give him the kind of long-term security that Washington has refused to provide?
If yes, then a tag-and-trade becomes more likely. If no, then he gets traded to the 49ers only if the 49ers will give Cousins the same deal he wants in Washington, if/when he’s tagged again.