After the Los Angeles Rams traded a ransom of picks for Detroit Lions veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, few quarterbacks in the league are truly safe.
Jared Goff, who’s gone to two Pro Bowls in the first five years of his career, was traded along with two future first-round picks and a third-rounder. Stafford’s arrival to the ultra-competitive NFC West has upped the ante of what it will take to make the postseason.
The San Francisco 49ers, who are a year removed from their Super Bowl 54 appearance against the Kansas City Chiefs, have the pieces to win now despite a punted 2020 season due to injuries abound. However, quarterback play remains an issue for San Francisco in a division that had three teams vying for a playoff spot in Week 17.
“#49ers still looking to make a move at QB. Kirk Cousins, I’m told, is a name to keep an eye on,” Massey said. “If #Vikings are open to dealing, San Francisco will push hard to acquire him. Ties with [coach Kyle Shanahan] make this an intriguing potential fit.”
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49ers Chased Cousins in the Past
Considering Cousins’ far-from-flattering national reputation as a quarterback with one playoff win in nine seasons, San Francisco fans seem bearish on the team acquiring Cousins.
The fan base has a vendetta against the Vikings signal-caller already after learning that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s love for Cousins potentially blinded his judgment in the past.
Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington with Cousins in 2012 and 2013, admitted he didn’t evaluate the 2017 quarterback draft class with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson as thoroughly as he should, given he knew Cousins would be available the next season.
“I felt very confident that [Cousins] wasn’t going to stay [in Washington],” Shanahan said last month. When you go into a season knowing that a franchise quarterback is going to be available the next year, it made me a lot more picky with what we were looking at.”
That decision doesn’t change how Shanahan feels now, especially after Cousins — playing in the outside-zone running scheme that Shanahan’s father and Gary Kubiak innovated — has thrived, putting up career-best numbers the past two years after Minnesota outbid the 49ers for the veteran QB in 2018.
During the 2019 campaign, Cousins threw the fewest interceptions in a “full” season (played 15 games) of his career, with just six while throwing 26 touchdowns. His 69.1 completion percentage was the fourth-best since joining the NFL and third-best dating back to 2015 when he first played 16 games.
The 2020 season featured similar success for Cousins, who racked up the third-most single-season passing yards (4,265) while tossing a career-best 35 touchdowns. Cousins’ quarterback rating clocked in at 105.0, better than every year outside of 2019 (107.4).
What a Trade May Look Like
Last month, Mike Florio speculated that the Vikings may not ask for a ton of value in exchange for Cousins — given parting way with his contract would be the biggest gain. However, Stafford setting the bar for trade value could influence negotiations.
Jimmy Garopollo’s contract carries only a $2.8 million cap hit, meaning the 49ers could take on Cousins’ contract with ease. In return, Minnesota could likely get San Francisco’s second-round pick (No. 43 overall) in a simple one-to-one trade.
But if the Vikings threw in some mid-round picks, which general manager Rick Spielman has a bevy of, Minnesota could make a case for the 49ers’ No. 12 overall pick.
Dependent on the way quarterback free agency pans out, Minnesota could feel comfortable taking a quarterback with either the No. 12 or No. 14 overall pick. The two picks could also be used to trade up and get a prized top-four QB.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.