49ers' future at QB hinges on Washington's Monday deadline

49ers' future at QB hinges on Washington's Monday deadline

Washington has until Monday, 1 p.m., to presumably take quarterback Kirk Cousins off the 2018 market for any interested teams.

It does not look as if a long-term deal is coming before the league-imposed deadline, which means Cousins would continue to be a person of interest for the 49ers – and their fan base – throughout the upcoming season.

Kyle Shanahan, of course, was Cousins’ first offensive coordinator when he came into the league in 2012. Cousins saw limited action in his first two NFL seasons under the Shanahans.

But after taking over as the full-time quarterback, Cousins has thrived. He started 32 games the past two seasons and completed 68 percent of his passes for 9,083 yards with 54 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a passer rating of 99.3.

Cousins is scheduled to play the upcoming season as Washington’s franchise player with a one-year, $23.94 million contract. If a multi-year contract is not signed by early Monday afternoon, he will not be eligible to sign an extension until after the end of the regular season.

In order for Washington to hold onto his rights for 2018, his franchise tag would leap to $34.47 million for one season.

The 49ers will have plenty of cap space in 2018 to go as high as they want to extend for any available player. Currently, the 49ers are $66.8 million under the salary cap. All unused cap space from one year can be carried over to the next. The 49ers have vowed to continue to roll over all of their unspent cap money.

If Washington places the transition tag on Cousins, the 49ers would have the flexibility of structuring a front-loaded offer sheet to take advantage of the league’s most cap space and prevent Washington from matching the terms of the deal.

The 49ers decided to be patient this offseason at the quarterback position. Rather than make a play to trade for Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, general manager John Lynch opted to build out the roster rather than mortgage the future at other positions for the club's potential franchise quarterback.

Brian Hoyer was Shanahan’s target on the free-agent market. After Atlanta backup Matt Schaub opted to remain with the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers secured Matt Barkley as the backup.

Lynch attended the pro day of every top quarterback in the draft, but the 49ers ultimately selected unheralded C.J. Beathard at the end of the third round to develop for the future.

Hoyer, 31, will get an opportunity to show that the future of the franchise is in good hands with him at the controls. He has shown the ability to be a solid quarterback. But in eight NFL seasons, Hoyer has started 10 games or more only once in his career.

If the 49ers make an improvement from the two-win team of a year ago, it could cripple their chances at addressing the position in the draft. If they approach the level of a .500 team, the 49ers would be selecting toward the middle of the first round and, potentially, they would not have an opportunity to select one of the top quarterbacks.

But the 49ers’ plan at quarterback will likely already be apparent by the time next year’s draft rolls around. If the 49ers aggressively go after a veteran quarterback, that will happen in early-March – nearly two months before the draft.

Cousins turns 29 in August, but it is now expected that quarterbacks can play at a high level past their mid-30s. The cost of obtaining him is more of an issue than his age.

Because of Shanahan’s rapport with Cousins, the 49ers’ minds will probably not be swayed too much by his performance this season. But how he produces in 2017 might determine how far Washington will go to retain him for at least another year.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Uh-oh: Is Kyle Shanahan going to be Harbaugh-tastic in his timing?

Until now, Kyle Shanahan’s hiring by the San Fracisco 49ers looked great because of his two-and-a-half predecessors – the last days of Jim Harbaugh, the misplaced concept of Jim Tomsula and the couldn’t-make-chicken-marsala-out-of-old-Kleenex problems surrounding Chip Kelly.

But now, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has told us all that Shanahan has a gift we in the Bay Area know all too well. Specifically, that Shanahan took too long to call plays to the Super Bowl the Falcons vomited up to the New England Patriots.

Now who does that remind you of, over and over again?

Yes, some things are evergreen, and too many options in this overly technological age seems to be one of them. Data in is helpful, but command going out is what bells the cow. Ryan said Shanahan was, well, almost Harbaugh-tastic in his timing.

“Kyle’s play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in,” Ryan told Bleacher Report. “As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you’re talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, ‘There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.’ You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

“With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You’re not being aggressive not running it there.”

And the reason this matters is because the Atlanta Shanahan had multiple good options on every play. In San Francsco, at least in the short term, he’ll be dealing with minimal options. That could speed up his choices, as in “What the hell, we don’t have Julio Jones.” But it could also mean more delays, as in, “Okay, him . . . no, maybe not . . . no, he just screwed up that play last series . . . oh, damn it, time out!”

In short, it’s growing pains season here, children. On the field, on the sidelines, and maybe even in Kyle Shanahan’s head.