49ers

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.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

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AP

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

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USATSI

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.