Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is seeking another contract extension this season to avoid a contract year after he spent years wavering in that scenario in Washington.
If he does not reach an extension with the Vikings, Cousins may be willing to waive his no-trade clause to find a destination that is willing to give him at the very least another year to his current contract.
Cousins to the San Francisco 49ers has been a perennial talking point the past three offseasons, however, after a transcendent season for the 34-year-old quarterback, Cousins’ trade stock has never been higher.
The Mercury News, a local San Francisco outlet, deemed Cousins an “obvious candidate” for the 49ers to trade for this offseason.
“Shanahan has coveted Cousins since their days in Washington a decade ago. Watching them talk at the 49ers-Vikings joint practices in August, the chemistry remains,” Cam Inman, who has covered the 49ers since 2000, wrote. “Shanahan planned to make a play for Cousins in 2018 free agency, but Garoppolo entered the picture with a Halloween 2017 trade. Cousins delivered a career-best 13 wins this regular season, before a wild-card loss to the Giants. His 4,547 yards marked the seventh time in eight years he’s thrown over the 4K mark.”
The 49ers’ consideration of Cousins comes in the wake of Brock Purdy suffering a torn UCL that derailed San Francisco’s chances in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. San Francisco has made three of the past four NFC title games but have yet to win a Super Bowl with the quarterback position remaining their only puzzle left to solve.
Shanahan’s affinity for Cousins could make the trade a possibility for both front offices.
49ers Offer Vikings Trey Lance, Cap Savings for Kirk Cousins
The dilemma facing the 49ers is their lack of draft capital. San Francisco is without a first-round pick after sending their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins to draft Trey Lance in the 2021 draft.
A trade involving Cousins may not fetch much draft capital, but it gets the Vikings out from under a veteran quarterback contract to rebuild their defense with more than middle-round rookies and budget veteran free agents. Lance could serve as a bridge quarterback on a rookie deal while the Vikings assess the quarterback landscape in the next few years.
However, if Minnesota does not want Lance, the 49ers could seek another trade partner to swap Lance for a late first-round pick that could be used to trade for Cousins.
49ers Could Gamble Future With Kirk Cousins Trade
General manager John Lynch admitted Shanahan wanted Cousins over Garoppolo, saying the 49ers coach was in “mourning” when they didn’t secure Cousins in the 2018 offseason.
“We made the (Garoppolo) trade, but then there were some days when Kyle Shanahan was like in mourning, because I think everybody knows his master plan was to have Kirk Cousins come in eventually,” Lynch said in an interview with ESPN in 2018. “I was proud of Kyle, because I think he knew this was the right thing for our franchise. And he didn’t hesitate. But even then, Jimmy had to really prove himself.”
But after Shanahan attempted to make it work with the franchise over his “master plan,” there’s still time with San Francisco looking like a quarterback away from making the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are much further from that goal, in need of at least five replacement starters on defense this offseason along with depth on both lines.
The 49ers weathered quarterback injuries all season and still made the NFC Championship with their third-stringer in Purdy. If Cousins had gotten injured, the Vikings would admittedly tank. That’s the difference between a team more equitably built versus a team that has to build around a pricey veteran quarterback contract.
Offloading Cousins’ contract can position the new Vikings regime to move forward with their “competitive rebuild” of the franchise, which will center around rehauling the roster and finding a replacement at quarterback.
That replacement may not be as good as Cousins, but the roster could improve dramatically by signing prized free agents versus aging veterans and banking on elevating middle-round rookies every year.