The San Francisco 49ers won’t be on the hunt for Kirk Cousins after all. Not after trading a second-round pick to get Jimmy Garoppolo, a young quarterback who is now firmly set in the team’s franchise quarterback role.
There were a steady flow of rumors tying Cousins to San Francisco earlier in 2017, which made plenty of sense given the team’s lackluster quarterback situation and its hire of Kyle Shanahan, Cousins’ former offensive coordinator.
But a trade never materialized this offseason. Cousins was franchised-tagged by Washington, delaying the potential quarterback-coach reunion until 2018. Now we know that won’t come to be.
A possible reunion with another former offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, looks dead too. Jared Goff has taken significant steps forward with the Los Angeles Rams this season in McVay’s first year as head coach.
Cousins is still set to become a free agent in 2018, though. And now that the 49ers are no longer the prohibitive favorite for his services, any team that needs a quarterback, from the Browns to the Broncos, will be in the mix. We narrowed it down to four spots that could make sense:
Everything about the Jaguars is good except the quarterback position. They boast one of the NFL’s best defenses and a dangerous running game with Leonard Fournette, but Blake Bortles is still the same Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville picked up his fifth-year option meaning he’s set to make more than $19 million in 2018, but that’s only guaranteed for injury. What the Jaguars can do — and almost definitely will do, barring a serious injury — is cut him and recoup that $19 million.
That’ll leave a playoff-level roster with a lot of money still left to spare looking for a quarterback. With the 49ers out of the way, this seems like the new match made in heaven for Cousins.
Salary cap space isn’t great in Arizona and it’s part of the reason the team lost important players like Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson in free agency. But the Cardinals would have a lot more room to work with if Carson Palmer retires after the year, nullifying his $20.625 million cap hit.
That’d leave a lot of money to work with and a big hole at quarterback to fill. While the Cardinals’ roster has taken a step backward recently, it still has stars on defense like Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. The team also has one of the best offensive talents in the NFL in running back David Johnson.
Arizona is another place where Cousins could be set up to thrive.
For a team that everyone thought was well on its way toward tanking for a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets have done surprisingly well so far in 2017 with long-in-the-tooth Josh McCown under center. Their 3-5 record has even come with close losses to the Patriots and Falcons.
Those three wins are probably already too many to secure the No. 1 draft pick in a year when two teams, the 49ers and Browns, are halfway through their schedule and still winless.
But the Jets have a ton of money to work with and could go a different route to secure a quarterback of the future. The question is whether or not Cousins can see himself winning any time soon with a roster that may have the NFL’s least inspiring wide receiving corps.
It may seem like foregone conclusion that Cousins leaves in free agency, but as long as he’s in Washington, there’s a chance it gets done. And it’s not like the team is hurting for cap space in 2018.
Washington wants Cousins at the right price, but the team already poured $44 million into him over the last couple years and it’s really not going to get any cheaper to find a franchise quarterback.
While another franchise tag or a transition tag is probably off the table — it’d cost around $35 million to tag him for a third straight season — don’t count out Cousins staying put. The 29-year-old is once again near the top of the league in passing yards, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns. Washington doesn’t have an heir apparent at quarterback, either.
There’s still a great chance that Washington and Cousins will get through this bumpy time in their marriage with a brand new contract that makes things all better.