INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the 49ers’ apparent quarterback targets is no longer available for negotiations.
Washington designated quarterback Kirk Cousins as the team’s exclusive franchise player, the club announced on Tuesday. The move, in essence, takes Cousins completely off the free-agent market.
Washington opted for the exclusive tag, rather than the ordinary franchise tag. Once a player is tagged as an exclusive franchise player, his previous team holds his sole negotiating rights. It does not eliminate the possibility of a trade.
Under the non-exclusive tag, outside teams are still allowed to negotiate with the player. If a team were to sign a player an offer sheet under the non-exclusive tag, that team would owe two first-round picks as compensation.
Cousins, who becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to be designated as his team’s franchise player in back-to-back years, is expected to earn approximately $24 million on a one-year contract.
If Cousins and Washington do not agree on a long-term contract within the next year, Cousins would be eligible to hit the free-agent market next year.
The 49ers were viewed as a team that would be interested in acquiring Cousins this offseason. Mike Shanahan was Washington’s head coach and Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in 2012 when Cousins entered the NFL in 2012 as a fourth-round draft pick.
Cousins, 28, has been Washington’s starter the past two seasons. He completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts in 2015 with 29 touchdown passes and 11 touchdowns and a passer rating of 101.6.
Last year, Cousins was third in the league with 4,917 passing yards with an 8.1 average per attempt. He ranked seventh in the NFL with a 97.2 pass rating.
New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are in the market for quarterbacks with the start of the free agency and trades scheduled for March 9.
Colin Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his contract. If he does not, the 49ers would not be expected to bring him back on his scheduled $14.9 million pay for 2017.
Each of the other three quarterbacks on the 49ers’ roster – Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis -- are scheduled free agents.