Before the 2017 season began, a potentially fascinating free-agency tug of war loomed between the 49ers and Rams for quarterback Kirk Cousins. After all, both of his offensive coordinators in Washington, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, were first-year coaches without clear answers at quarterback beyond this year.
But then Rams quarterback Jared Goff began to play like the first overall pick in the draft and, now, Shanahan has acquired Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick in 2018. While it’s still possible (but not likely) that the Rams will decide to get in the Cousins business next year, the 49ers most likely are out of the market for Captain Kirk.
This makes Washington an unintended beneficiary of the trade between San Francisco and New England, taking out of the mix a natural fit for Cousins. If he leaves D.C. after the season, he’ll likely end up in a place where he’ll be working for someone he didn’t previously know.
It doesn’t mean Cousins will have no suitors. After all, healthy, successful quarterbacks on the right side of 30 rarely hit the open market. But the absence of the 49ers as an obvious destination complicates things, at a minimum, for Cousins — and it makes a long-term deal with Washington more likely than it was this morning.
For now, the most obvious potential destinations are the Jets, the Browns (if they decide they’ve seen enough from DeShone Kizer, or if they hire a new coach), the Jaguars, the Colts (if Andrew Luck is done), the Chargers (if Philip Rivers is done, or if they want him to be done), the Broncos (if they decide none of their current options is the answer), the Giants (if they decide to move on from Eli Manning), the Saints (if Drew Brees leaves), and the Cardinals (if Carson Palmer retires, or if they hire a new coach). Without a coach of an offensive coordinator in place with whom Cousins feels comfortable, staying put makes a lot more sense.
So why would Shanahan want Garoppolo over Cousins? Even if the 49ers have to tag Garoppolo as a precursor to signing him to a long-term deal, it’ll cost a lot less to keep him than it would to sign Cousins on the open market.
There’s also a chance that, after a few months with Garoppolo, Shanahan decides to let Garoppolo walk, collect the third-round compensatory pick in 2019, and pursue Cousins. It’s not likely, but it’s far more likely than the move that came out of the blue on Monday night.