Many high-profile possibilities have been floated when it comes to the 49ers' quarterback situation. Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have publicly said they believe Jimmy Garoppolo will be their starter in 2021. But the fact remains -- the team can save about $24 million by trading or releasing him this offseason.
Football fans and pundits have speculated about the 49ers putting together a big package to acquire Deshaun Watson, perhaps go for another veteran like Matt Stafford, or trade up to draft someone like Justin Fields.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk added another name to the mix Monday, when he joined The Morning Roast on 95.7 The Game and said Kirk Cousins would be a more realistic 49ers trade target than Watson.
“He’s a guy that Shanahan believes can run that offense well,” Florio said. “I think the biggest problem with Jimmy Garoppolo is his inability to be available to the team, his inability to be healthy. [Cousins] can run that offense. And the key to running the offense is doing exactly what Kyle Shanahan wants. He’s a kid on the sideline with a joystick operating like a video-game figure, and that’s what Cousins is good at. He can run the play that’s called.”
Cousins and the 49ers have been linked since the start of Shanahan’s tenure in 2017. Shanahan told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic that he was focused on acquiring Cousins before a deal quickly formed for the franchise to land Garoppolo at the 2017 trade deadline. A source close to Cousins also expected the quarterback to join the 49ers around that time period, but it never worked out.
Cousins will be 33 next season, and has two years left on his contract with the Minnesota Vikings. The quarterback is due for a $31 million salary-cap hit in 2021, ninth-highest in the NFL, and $45 million in 2022. Garoppolo, by comparison, is on the books for $26.2 million next season and $27 million in 2022.
“It’s very easy to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo,” Florio said on The Game. “They just need to treat him like he’s currently not on the roster and make a decision of all their options. … At this point, I’d be surprised if he’s the quarterback in 2021. That would mean there was no other good option out there that the 49ers could identify.”
Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdown [passes in 2020 -- which ranked sixth in the NFL -- but he'd actually add to the 49ers' salary cap this season. His familiarity with Shanahan’s system is important, but it’s hard to envision the 49ers' front office taking on a bigger contract for an older player, even if Cousins is more reliable.
Florio might not be sold on Garoppolo, but Cousins would be a big risk as well.