The past two years, the Washington Redskins have franchise tagged their quarterback Kirk Cousins. Last year had been deemed a one off, and many assumed they would agree to terms on a long-term contract this off-season if Cousins’ performance stayed on the same level.
However, after another stellar season, the Redskins opted to tag Cousins yet again. This immediately sparked a rumor that Cousins wanted out, and his logical landing spot was with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers are in dire need of a quarterback and have been since Colin Kaepernick’s rapid regression began. Currently, the only quarterbacks on their roster are Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, both of whom signed with the team this off-season. Hoyer had success in Houston and poses an interesting option as a stop gap solution. Meanwhile, Barkley—once a highly touted prospect out of USC—has shown flashes of potential in his time with the Eagles and the Bears, but neither are nearly the long term answer that Kirk Cousins would be.
The other obvious element to this equation is new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. While Shanahan most recently served as the Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator, helping guide them to Super Bowl LI, he was also in the same position with the Redskins from 2010 to 2013. Not only did he coordinate the most successful season of Robert Griffin III’s career, but he also groomed Kirk Cousins into a viable starting option.
Rumors swirled that Cousins wouldn’t even sign the franchise tender, but earlier this month, he did. So if Kirk Cousins still wants out, he no longer has much leverage. If the Redskins want him on the roster for this upcoming season, he will be.
On Tuesday, Redskins President Bruce Allen insisted that the team is “committed” to Kirk Cousins’ contract. Likely to Cousins’ chagrin, Allen also left the option of a third consecutive franchise tag next year on the table.
Most teams will scramble to get their franchise quarterback, or anyone resembling such a thing, under a long-term deal. For reference, just look at what the Houston Texans shelled out to Brock Osweiler last year. That now stands as a cautionary tale, of course, after the Texans rid themselves of the Arizona State product following an abysmal first season in Houston. But, Kirk Cousins is a much more proven commodity and isn’t nearly the risk that Osweiler was just a year ago.
So while it is befuddling that Washington hasn’t scurried to lock up Kirk Cousins, which is perhaps another sign of the organizational dysfunction that they’ve become infamous for under Dan Snyder, it is understandable why they aren’t exactly giddy at the idea of trading him either. Franchise quarterbacks are at an absolute premium in the NFL, and the Redskins know that all too well, suffering through their fair share of Heath Shulers and Patrick Ramseys.
It’s history like that the 49ers are trying to prevent from happening in San Francisco by trying to acquire Kirk Cousins. Because the old adage is, if you miss at quarterback, you have to keep swinging until you get it right. The good news for Kyle Shanahan and new General Manager John Lynch is that they’re likely to get a few swings at it if they fail to get Cousins, as they both signed six-year contracts.
Regardless of Bruce Allen’s claims now, it’s still March and there’s a lot of off-season yet to occur. Thus, in the coming weeks and months, this Kirk Cousins situation might resolve itself. Whether it would be that he’s dealt to the 49ers, or lands a long-term extension in the nation’s capitol. Or, Cousins could find himself franchise tagged for a third straight season this time next year.