Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports



The 2017 salary cap hit for Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks as the third-highest in the NFL at $23.94 million thanks to the exclusive franchise tag placed on him in February. NFL writer Steven Ruiz of USA TODAY's For the Win recently ranked Cousins among the most overpaid players in the game.

While this isn't exactly San Francisco 49ers related news yet, it could be in March of 2018 should Washington not come to a long-term contract agreement with Cousins by July 17th. That would schedule the quarterback to become a free agent next year and the talk all season would likely surround the possibility of Cousins joining his former offensive coordinator-turned-49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan, in San Francisco.

If the 49ers were to target Cousins in free agency next year, as they would be expected to do and assuming he is available, they would likely have to pay a fair market value for the quarterback. That value was recently set when the Oakland Raiders gave Derek Carr a new five-year contract worth up to $125 million. That is now the number to beat for Washington and a number that will need to be eclipsed for the 49ers should Cousins hit the open market in 2018. The difference is Carr is 26 years old and Cousins will be 30 when the 2018 season kicks off.

Ruiz gave the following explanation for Cousins being listed as his eighth-most "tremendously overpaid" players:

"Washington did this to themselves. Instead of locking Cousins down to a deal more in line with his talent level years ago, they're now stuck slapping the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive year. Cousins is a decent quarterback whose statistical production is more a product of what's around him than his own abilities. We saw the effects of his big price tag this offseason when the Redskins were forced to move on from DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon."

Now, as we all know, the quarterback market is unlike that for any other position. Teams often have to overpay to secure the most important player on any NFL roster – a starting quarterback. A good quarterback hitting the open market is rare so when one does, NFL teams will have to dig deep into their wallets to acquire them. The salary cap will increase as well, which increases the going rate for top tier free agents.

There are few elite veteran quarterbacks in the league like Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, and Drew Brees. They have all already proven themselves. Then you have young rising stars like Carr who could potentially head toward elite status sooner rather than later. Cousins being on the list begs the question: Does it make sense for the 49ers to make what Ruiz calls a "decent" quarterback the highest-paid NFL player in 2018 when he is considered overpaid in 2017?

While money should not be a problem for the 49ers, the incoming quarterback class in the 2018 NFL draft is considered to be among the strongest in years. Would it be smarter for the team to find its quarterback of the future there and spend money elsewhere on a roster that will still have holes or should it spend big on Cousins and address those holes with young talent in the draft?

It's an interesting debate that will be pointless should Cousins and Washington come to an agreement before July 17th. If they don't, you may want to prepare yourself for an entire season of "Cousins Watch" from the media.