Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports



Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is on course for a very lucrative opportunity following the 2017 season. Either he gets a new contract from his current team and makes a whole lot of money, is franchised for the third-straight year for an absurdly large sum of money, or cashes in during free agency with a quarterback-needy team like the San Francisco 49ers.

Chatter surrounding a Cousins-to-San Francisco scenario has been present since even before Kyle Shanahan officially became the 49ers' new head coach in February. To many, Cousins is seen as a perfect fit for Shanahan's offensive scheme and the two have worked together before. Shanahan was Washington's offensive coordinator from 2010 through 2013. Cousins was drafted by Washington in 2012.

Shanahan was so fond of Cousins that, when he moved on to the Cleveland Browns, he was able to convince the team to try to trade for Cousins. Cleveland offered a fourth-round pick for the quarterback, who was originally a fourth-round selection, and Washington turned it down.

Shanahan and the 49ers will get a good look at Cousins on Sunday when they travel to Landover, Maryland to face the quarterback and his team. Washington is a heavy favorite to beat the winless 49ers.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden would love to retain Cousins beyond 2017 but understands that you don't always get what you want.

"At the end of the day, this is a business and contracts are what they are," Gruden said on a conference call with Bay Area media earlier this week. "Players have agents and the player's always going to do what he thinks is best for himself and the family. Kirk's a great guy and we intend on keeping him and that is the plan, I would think."

For Cousins, the focus is on this season and not what lies beyond. He knows that playing well now will make him more valuable to Washington or any other interested team.

"The key is to play football really well from now until then so when we get to that point, I'll have options and there will be teams that will be interested," Cousins told Bay Area media this week.

On Thursday, ESPN insider Adam Schefter joined KNBR and discussed the 49ers' options at quarterback in 2018. While he has heard mixed opinions on whether or not Washington will allow Cousins to leave, he sees San Francisco as a legitimate destination possibility.

Of course, the question that comes into play is: Should the 49ers spend upwards of $30 million a year on a quarterback? The 49ers have the salary cap room to do so and can certainly absorb that kind of contract but it's still a lot of money to invest at one position when there are so many other needs. Another option would be to bypass an expensive free agent quarterback like Cousins, use the draft to find a younger signal caller, and save a lot of money that can be used to strengthen the numerous other holes on the team.

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If the season were to end today, the 49ers would own the third-overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft due to the winless New York Giants and Cleveland Browns having the weaker strength of schedules.

"I think [the 49ers have] played much-improved football and the signs are encouraging, but they're still winless," Schefter said. "So, let's just say they have a top three pick. What if they know they're going to be able to draft Sam Darnold [of USC] or Josh Rosen [of UCLA] or Josh Allen [of Wyoming] or you pick the quarterback -- Baker Mayfield [of Oklahoma]. If they're in a position where they go pick a quarterback, are you then going to be willing to go spend – let's just call it $28 million a year – on Kirk Cousins?"

Schefter calls the future 49ers decision "one of those crossroad moments" which will dictate the direction of the franchise.

"By the way, when you draft a quarterback and you hit on that quarterback, the financial savings and impact that it has on the rest of your team is incredible," Schefter continued. "Just think what happened when the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round with the 75th overall pick and got to pay him on a discounted contract there. They were able to go give other money to guys like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas and all the other players that they were able to build up because the quarterback was significantly cheaper."

Schefter went on to say that if the 49ers decide to pursue Cousins, they could craft a contract that would be very difficult for Washington to compete with.

You can listen to the entire interview with Schefter below.


Through four games this season, Cousins has completed over 66-percent of his passes for 1,004 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. His passer rating of 107.6 ranks ninth in the NFL and he has the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus quarterback rating (93.1), which accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and other factors. Only Alex Smith, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees have better Pro Football Focus quarterback ratings.

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has a great deal of respect for the Washington quarterback, whom he is preparing to face. He knows the matchup will not be an easy one for the 49ers defense.

"Kirk, he can spin it," Saleh told reporters on Thursday. "Really, really live arm. He's very smart. He can make you pay. He's patient enough to make you pay. He'll grind you out all the way down the field. If you get too aggressive he'll take shots over the top of the defense. Kirk is a really, really good quarterback. I have a lot of respect for him."

49ers Webzone senior writer and co-host of the "No Huddle" podcast, Al Sacco, is in favor of acquiring Cousins in 2018.

"Kirk Cousins is a proven commodity and the 49ers are closer to competing than some may think," Sacco said. "Bringing Cousins in and using their vast draft capital to surround him with weapons puts the Niners in a position to win next year. While there's always a possibility that a rookie quarterback can come in and play well right away, Kyle Shanahan may prefer to go the veteran route to speed up the process a little and Cousins is a good fit."

The other half of the "No Huddle" podcast, writer Zain Naqvi, agrees with his co-host that Cousins is a good fit but cautions the potential move.

"Kirk Cousins is definitely a fit for the system," Naqvi said, "but for how long? He turns 30 next year and will join a team in the midst of a long rebuild. How many years can we expect to have Cousins in his prime? Two? Three? Four? For as big of a cap hit as that may be – possibly over $30 million per year – is it worth it? Add in the fact that Cousins has some solid playmakers around him in Washington and it's currently a much better situation than that of the 49ers.

"I'd much rather they choose a rookie who they can mold into a solid quarterback. If they go this route, the rookie will have known only one system in the NFL – Kyle Shanahan's. You'll also likely get more years out of a younger guy and he'll also be able to grow with the team. I'm cool with either direction the 49ers choose but this is undoubtedly a franchise-shaping decision that John Lynch and company need to get right."

Sacco and Naqvi go into an in-depth discussion about the 49ers roster in their latest podcast episode, which you can listen to below.