An interesting thing happened Monday night between the Redskins and Kirk Cousins, but it had nothing to do with either the Redskins or Kirk Cousins.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers traded to get Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, giving up a second round pick.
In turn, San Francisco basically removed themselves from a potential bidding war for Cousins next offseason as Washington's QB is only under contract for 2017.
Now why would the Niners go and do that? It's simple really.
The San Francisco brain trust must not think Cousins will hit the open market in 2018.
Beyond the possibility of Washington reaching a long-term deal with Cousins before free agency opens, the Redskins still have the option to use either a third straight franchise tag or transition tag on their quarterback. The dollar amounts for either are staggering, but so was the possible offer San Francisco GM John Lynch and the 49ers could have put forward for Cousins.
The connection between Cousins and Shanahan is obvious, and the interest from both parties was real, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
Shanahan and the Niners moving from the pursuit of Cousins to the reality of Garoppolo, a talented but less proven 26-year-old backup, surely signals that other NFL teams expect Cousins back in D.C. for at least one more year.
For the last two seasons, Redskins team president Bruce Allen has referred to the franchise tag as a "team option" and at no point has he seemed hesitant to deploy the option for a third straight year. Washington's best chance at a long-term deal with Cousins came in 2016, before the team used their first franchise tag on Cousins, and in 2017 the quarterback's representatives chose to not even enter into real negotiations with the Redskins. Instead, Cousins signed his one-year, $24 million franchise deal.
And next year?
A franchise tag would pay Cousins $34 million. A transition tag would pay him $28 million. The QB would likely sign either, happily.
As for the Redskins, they could remain free of a long-term $100 million plus contract for Cousins, something it seems the franchise would like to avoid.
The Niners were the biggest threat to the Redskins when it came to Cousins. A terrible team flush with salary cap cash, San Francisco could put an offer out for the QB that would be simply crazy for a more established Redskins team to match. Now, that threat is almost certainly gone.
Other teams will emerge as suitors for Cousins. Jacksonville or Denver seem logical spots, teams with good defenses and bad passers, and plenty of additioinal names will pop up.
But, reading the situation, it's hard to see this move without increasing the chances Cousins comes back to the Redskins. At least for 2018.
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