Kirk Cousins

Where will Cousins play in 2018? McCloughan: 'Tough question to answer'

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AP

Where will Cousins play in 2018? McCloughan: 'Tough question to answer'

Quarterback Kirk Cousins will turn 30 years old during training camp next summer.

Where he is when he blows out the candles will be one of the major NFL storylines after this season. Washington has held onto him the past two years with the franchise tag.

If Washington were to place the tag on him for an unprecedented third consecutive year, Cousins would earn $34.5 million next year.

“I know they like him,” former 49ers and Washington general manager Scot McCloughan said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “I know he likes it there. He’s been there the whole time.

“He’s battled through things and he’s shown resiliency. He’s shown leadership. The players like him. The players trust him. The coaches do, too.”

Cousins is off to a hot start this season, as the 49ers are next up on the schedule. Cousins has completed 66.1 percent of his pass attempts for 1,004 yards in four games. He has thrown seven touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 107.6.

“He won’t back down,” said McCloughan, who compared Cousins to Alex Smith. “He’s got a lot of football ahead of him. He takes care of himself – mentally, physically, emotionally. He’s going to be a good player, wherever he’s at -- (Washington) or somewhere else.”

Mike Shanahan was Washington's head coach and Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in 2012, when the club selected quarterback Robert Griffin with the No. 2 overall pick. In the fourth round, Washington drafted Cousins.

“I know with Mike and Kyle drafting him in Washington, they know him really well," McCloughan said. "They know what kind of guy he is.”

But it is far too early to guess where Cousins might play next season. The 49ers are one of three winless teams in the NFL, and McCloughan said he believes three quarterbacks will be selected within the top-10 of the draft. The veteran market -- free agency or trade activity -- opens in March. The draft is approximately six weeks later.

But the first move belongs to Washington, which can tag him or extend a lucrative multi-year contract offer.

“It’s a tough question to answer because there’s no solid answer for it right now,” McCloughan said.

Kirk Cousins wants to play for Washington his entire career

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AP

Kirk Cousins wants to play for Washington his entire career

Washington drafted Kirk Cousins in the fourth round (102nd overall) of the 2012 draft.

After starting just nine games combined over his first three years in the NFL, Cousins started all 32 games over the last two seasons.

“I would love to be ... a (name of Washington's mascot) the rest of my career,” Cousins told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. “When you look at the best of the best, those quarterbacks played with one team. And if you point to a couple guys who didn’t, who changed teams, it really was against their will.

"I think if Joe Montana or Peyton Manning had their way they would have stayed where they had won Super Bowls and played so well. They wouldn’t have played so well.

[REWIND: A look at 49ers' QB options for 2018]

"So my desire is to stay with one team my entire career, and that would be Washington.”

49ers fans probably aren't thrilled with this.

Ever since Kyle Shanahan became the team's head coach, the 49ers have been connected to the Pro Bowl quarterback.

Cousins will play under the franchise tag -- $23.94 million -- for the second straight year, and cannot sign an extension with Washington until after the regular season.

If Cousins does hit free agency, the 49ers certainly have plenty of money to spend...

Why Kirk Cousins' stock is on the rise

Why Kirk Cousins' stock is on the rise

The NFL has always had difficulty uncovering the next stars at the sport’s most important position.

And it figures to get more and more difficult as offenses in college have drifted away from the general requirements of playing quarterback at the NFL level, such as forming a huddle, lining up under center and reading defenses.

First-year 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan spoke before the draft about the difficulties of evaluating college quarterbacks and attempting to project how they will fit into NFL schemes.

“It makes it tougher each year to evaluate,” Shanahan said. “The more spread out it gets, the more up-tempo it gets, a little more sloppy it gets.

“I know a lot of colleges have committed to the spread, which is a good way to move the football and a good way to score points. But it does make it harder to evaluate if you don’t plan on doing the same thing.”

Are there enough good, young quarterbacks to take over after the current crop of aging, superstars fade out of the NFL? Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are in their mid-30s or older.

That is why Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins would be a player of interest for a lot of NFL teams if he becomes available next offseason. He turns 29 in August. But with the top quarterbacks continuing to play at high levels past 35 years old, any team could expect at least five solid seasons from Cousins.

Although he might not widely be considered a top-10 quarterback now, if Cousins continues to learn the game and improve he should move up as many of those in front of him exit the leauge.

Here’s a look at the ages this season of the non-rookie quarterbacks who are projected to start for their clubs:

40 – Tom Brady (NE)
38 – Drew Brees (NO), Carson Palmer (Ariz), Josh McCown (NYJ)
36 – Philip Rivers (LAC), Eli Manning (NYG)
35 – Ben Roethlisberger (Pitt)
34 – Aaron Rodgers (GB)
33 – Alex Smith (KC)
32 – Matt Ryan (Atl), Brian Hoyer (SF)
30 – Andy Dalton (Cinc), Sam Bradford (Minn)
29 – Matthew Stafford (Det), Ryan Tannehill (Mia), Joe Flacco (Balt) Kirk Cousins (Wash), Russell Wilson (Sea)
28 – Cam Newton (Car), Tyrod Taylor (Buff), Andrew Luck (Ind), Mike Glennon (Chi)
27 – Tom Savage (Hou)
26 – Derek Carr (Oak), Trevor Siemian (Den)
25 – Blake Bortles (Jax), Carson Wentz (Phi)
24 – Marcus Mariota (Tenn), Dak Prescott (Dal), Cody Kessler (Cleve)
23 – Jameis Winston (TB), Jared Goff (LAR)