San Francisco

Niners' Will Get a Hint of Their Future Next Week

Monday deadline for Washington and Cousins could have big impact on future of San Francisco's quarterback position in 2018 and beyond

Since signing with the 49ers, Brian Hoyer often has been referred to as the team’s place-holder quarterback.

Many NFL observers believe Hoyer was brought in to stabilize the position under first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan until the Niners can bring in a veteran or draft a top prospect in 2018. The veteran most often named is Kirk Cousins of Washington. And, as longtime Bay Area columnist Tim Kawakami noted this week, this Monday, July 17, is a big day for the 49ers in terms of finding out if Cousins will be available next season.

Kawakami reports that 1 p.m. Monday is the deadline for Cousins to sign a long-term deal to stay in Washington. If he doesn’t, then Cousins will get a one-year deal for the franchise-tag price, which will be about $23.9 million for 2017.

“The way the NFL’s franchise-tag system works, if there’s no long-term deal by Monday, Cousins will hit the market as either a restricted or unrestricted free agent in 2018,” wrote Kawakami, “and it seems probable that he will probably want to leave Washington at that point.”

Which would mean, of course, a possible deal in San Francisco to play for Shanahan, who was Cousins’ offensive coordinator in Washington for two seasons.

According to a report by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network Thursday, “there’s a strong indication” both Washington and Cousins are OK with the quarterback playing one more season under the tag and then seeking employment elsewhere next season.

Cousins, 28, could be just the man to lead Shanahan’s offense. He’s young, yet has been a full-time starter the past two seasons, including 2016, when he went to the Pro Bowl. Over 2015 and 2016, he’s thrown 54 touchdown passes vs. 23 interceptions, has had a quarterback rating between 97.2 and 101.6 and has been among the NFL leaders in completion percentage. In 2015 he led the NFL at 69.8 percent.

Though Hoyer could be a strong, solidifying force in 2017 for the 49ers – and has a two-year deal – Cousins has shown he plays at a higher level.

Plus, noted Kawakami, the 49ers are projected to have more salary-cap space than any other team in 2018, which would allow them to make a competitive financial pitch for Cousins.

With all that in mind, Monday looms as an important day for the 49ers, Kawakami wrote. Shanahan has said he’s a big fan of Cousins. The Washington QB could be the guy to lift the 49ers back into the ranks of the NFL winners.

“The 49ers have given Shanahan the key to the franchise,” he wrote. “He’s a QB expert and they desperately need an answer at QB for tomorrow, the next year and many years after that. If Shanahan believes it’s Cousins, then they have to trust him.”

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