I was one of the first people to write this earlier in February: Kirk Cousins to the 49ers makes much more sense in 2018 than it does 2017.
Apparently, the Redskins front office is starting to agree with that sentiment. With the franchise tag deadline looming on Wednesday, there is significant pressure on Washington to avoid the aftermath of a dreaded one-year deal — even if that means a trade.
ESPN.com’s John Keim reported Cousins and the Redskins are still incredibly far apart from a long term deal, and that the only team as of right now Cousins would sign a lucrative extension with is the 49ers.
The Redskins are starting to understand if they franchise tag Cousins and miss the playoffs next season, it’s very likely Cousins is going elsewhere in 2018 and Washington will have nothing to show for their loss. A one-year bet on Cousins, especially in a division with Dak Prescott and Eli Manning, is essentially like playing Russian Roulette. Cousins is a standup guy who loves Washington D.C., but he’ll understand his future is brighter elsewhere, likely San Francisco, come 2018.
So if Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch are enamored with Cousins’ talent — which by all accounts both are — why wouldn’t they just wait another season for him to become a free agent?
Well, plans change rapidly in the NFL. In fact, plans rarely go according to schedule. What if Cousins does end up leading the Redskins to their first postseason win since 2005? It’s not out of the question in a generally wide open NFC. The Redskins won the NFC East under Cousins in 2015. If he does win a postseason game, Dan Snyder and company will have no choice but to hand over the kings ransom. Or what if Cousins suffers a major injury late in the season that will keep him out until 2019? Anything can happen.
On the other side of the country, the 49ers will have wasted 2017 with a stop gap quarterback in anticipation that Cousins would arrive in San Francisco in 2018. It’s just too hard to assume the future in such an unpredictable sports league. That’s why the 49ers need to seriously consider striking while the iron is hot.
There’s no way the 49ers are giving up the usual two first-round picks it would cost to obtain a player who has been franchise tagged. Cousins would have to be traded to San Francisco with a long term deal already drawn up and ready to be signed. There’s pressure to get a deal done during the NFL Combine, and certainly before the NFL Draft.
I’ve proposed what many believe to be a fair trade for both teams. More than 2,500 people have voted on Twitter.
49ers get: Kirk Cousins, 17th overall pick
WSH gets: No. 2 overall pick, No. 34 overall, 2018 3rd rounder
— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) February 28, 2017
Why it’s fair for the 49ers: Shanahan and Lynch are essentially giving up a second and third round pick for a franchise quarterback. Cousins essentially becomes the No. 2 overall pick, and they’ll still get to take a very quality player at No. 17 overall. It’s parting with that No. 34 overall pick that will be tough to swallow. But the bottom line is you can’t build a winning program in this league without a quarterback. Is an extra wide receiver or linebacker in the second round going to change everything for the 49ers? No way. Washington’s giving up a proven gunslinger, and after the fortune they handed over for Robert Griffin III in 2012, I bet they’ll hold out for that second round pick.
Why it’s fair for the Redskins: Washington can still be in win-now mode by adding Jay Cutler or Tony Romo for a year, while also taking a quarterback for the future at some point in the draft. The risk of having Cousins leave for nothing next offseason would put GM Scot McCloughan’s job on the line. Instead, you get a building block at No. 2 overall and the flexibility of the 34th overall pick to move back into the first round if necessary. The third-round pick in 2018 is the cherry on top.
Some 49ers fans will be outraged with this trade because they don’t believe a soon-to-be 29-year-old Cousins can beat an Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Matt Ryan in the playoffs. And that may end up being true. But when you don’t have a quarterback, these are the types of chances you take. If you putter around with Cutler, or Brian Hoyer or Matt Schaub for a year and then hand the reigns to some unproven rookie, isn’t that even more dangerous than rolling with Cousins? What’s the point of lollygagging around in Year 1 of this regime?
Lynch has made it clear the 49ers will not rush into any rash decisions. Shanahan has said every decision is about winning long term, not about right now. But on a six-year contract, aren’t these the kind of chances the new power regime can absorb should they go wrong?
The bottom line is that Cousins has the arm and the smarts to win in the NFL. Watch the film on him the last two seasons and you’ll see a quarterback who can win from within the pocket and make every throw. I could make the argument that he’s the best quarterback option on the market in the last several seasons. Does Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky or DeShone Kizer have the smarts and arm talent to win in the NFL? We have absolutely no idea, and all three would be considered success stories should they reach Cousins’ level of quarterbacking.
Opportunities don’t come often like this, which is why Shanahan and Lynch need to weigh negotiations with the Washington Redskins very seriously.