49ers' future at QB hinges on Washington's Monday deadline

49ers' future at QB hinges on Washington's Monday deadline

Washington has until Monday, 1 p.m., to presumably take quarterback Kirk Cousins off the 2018 market for any interested teams.

It does not look as if a long-term deal is coming before the league-imposed deadline, which means Cousins would continue to be a person of interest for the 49ers – and their fan base – throughout the upcoming season.

Kyle Shanahan, of course, was Cousins’ first offensive coordinator when he came into the league in 2012. Cousins saw limited action in his first two NFL seasons under the Shanahans.

But after taking over as the full-time quarterback, Cousins has thrived. He started 32 games the past two seasons and completed 68 percent of his passes for 9,083 yards with 54 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a passer rating of 99.3.

Cousins is scheduled to play the upcoming season as Washington’s franchise player with a one-year, $23.94 million contract. If a multi-year contract is not signed by early Monday afternoon, he will not be eligible to sign an extension until after the end of the regular season.

In order for Washington to hold onto his rights for 2018, his franchise tag would leap to $34.47 million for one season.

The 49ers will have plenty of cap space in 2018 to go as high as they want to extend for any available player. Currently, the 49ers are $66.8 million under the salary cap. All unused cap space from one year can be carried over to the next. The 49ers have vowed to continue to roll over all of their unspent cap money.

If Washington places the transition tag on Cousins, the 49ers would have the flexibility of structuring a front-loaded offer sheet to take advantage of the league’s most cap space and prevent Washington from matching the terms of the deal.

The 49ers decided to be patient this offseason at the quarterback position. Rather than make a play to trade for Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, general manager John Lynch opted to build out the roster rather than mortgage the future at other positions for the club's potential franchise quarterback.

Brian Hoyer was Shanahan’s target on the free-agent market. After Atlanta backup Matt Schaub opted to remain with the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers secured Matt Barkley as the backup.

Lynch attended the pro day of every top quarterback in the draft, but the 49ers ultimately selected unheralded C.J. Beathard at the end of the third round to develop for the future.

Hoyer, 31, will get an opportunity to show that the future of the franchise is in good hands with him at the controls. He has shown the ability to be a solid quarterback. But in eight NFL seasons, Hoyer has started 10 games or more only once in his career.

If the 49ers make an improvement from the two-win team of a year ago, it could cripple their chances at addressing the position in the draft. If they approach the level of a .500 team, the 49ers would be selecting toward the middle of the first round and, potentially, they would not have an opportunity to select one of the top quarterbacks.

But the 49ers’ plan at quarterback will likely already be apparent by the time next year’s draft rolls around. If the 49ers aggressively go after a veteran quarterback, that will happen in early-March – nearly two months before the draft.

Cousins turns 29 in August, but it is now expected that quarterbacks can play at a high level past their mid-30s. The cost of obtaining him is more of an issue than his age.

Because of Shanahan’s rapport with Cousins, the 49ers’ minds will probably not be swayed too much by his performance this season. But how he produces in 2017 might determine how far Washington will go to retain him for at least another year.

49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks


49ers host two free-agent cornerbacks

The 49ers hosted two veteran cornerbacks on free-agent visits the past two days and could be signing either Jaylen Watkins or LaDarius Gunter as they wind down their activity on the free-agent market.

“We’re really pleased with what we’ve done,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Thursday. “I’ll never say never. We’ve had a couple of guys visit in the last couple of days. Perhaps we’ll do something there. But for the most part, we’re wrapped up and pleased with what we’ve been able to do.”

The 49ers do not have much depth behind presumptive starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The team is also likely to add to its depth in the draft.

The 49ers met with Gunter (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) on Thursday. Gunter, 25, started 15 games for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. He recorded 54 tackles and broke up 12 passes. He signed with the Packers in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Miami.

Gunter was waived at the beginning of last season and the Carolina Panthers claimed him. He appeared in just four games with Carolina, which did not tender him as a restricted free agent.

The 49ers on Wednesday met with Watkins, 26, a versatile defensive back who appeared in 36 games with five starts in four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Watkins (5-11, 195) played three snaps on defense and 17 plays on special teams in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4. He entered the NFL in 2014 as a fourth-round draft pick from Florida.

Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'


Eric Reid discusses free-agent status, 'going to consider different ways to be active'

STANFORD – Free-agent safety Eric Reid chatted with 49ers general manager John Lynch on the sideline, then moved into position onto the field for an up-close view of his brother’s pro day workout Thursday at Stanford University.

Younger brother, Justin, is aiming to be a first-round draft pick like Eric, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Both football futures of the Reid brothers remain uncertain. Justin's fate will be determined on draft day. Eric Reid remains in limbo as an NFL free agent. He has not gotten any action in the first week of free agency, and the 49ers have not made him a contract offer, he said.

But Lynch said the 49ers are closely monitoring Reid’s situation. However, the organization already has three safeties they like: Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert.

“Eric played and played well for us last year,” Lynch said. “I think he’s stuck in a safety market that’s been quiet. And I would anticipate things starting to shake for him and we’ll see.

“I’d never say never. I really do think opportunities will start to come his way. We’ve been monitoring it closely and we’ll see how that shakes out.”

Reid, 26, a six-year NFL veteran, said his agent has spoken recently to “a couple of teams,” but no contracts or visits have been proposed.

Reid’s market might be impacted by his up-front role in the protests of racial inequality of the past two seasons. Reid and Colin Kaepernick were the first players to take a knee during the national anthem at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Reid said he would probably not take part in any future protests during the national anthem.

“From the beginning, Colin has been flexible,” Reid said. “He started by sitting. He changed it up. We decided to kneel. And we understand that you got to change with the times. So I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”

Reid said he has no regrets. He said he is willing to deal with the consequences of how NFL teams viewed his role in the protests.

“I stand by what I’ve done,” Reid said. “I know why I’ve done it. My faith in God is the reason. I can go to sleep at night confident I did what I was called to do. I’m just gong to stay positive and keep trying to stay in shape and wait and see what happens.

“I said at the end of last season I’m OK no matter what happens.”