Washington places tag on Kirk Cousins, making him off-limits to 49ers

Washington places tag on Kirk Cousins, making him off-limits to 49ers

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the 49ers’ apparent quarterback targets is no longer available for negotiations.

Washington designated quarterback Kirk Cousins as the team’s exclusive franchise player, the club announced on Tuesday. The move, in essence, takes Cousins completely off the free-agent market.

Washington opted for the exclusive tag, rather than the ordinary franchise tag. Once a player is tagged as an exclusive franchise player, his previous team holds his sole negotiating rights. It does not eliminate the possibility of a trade.

Under the non-exclusive tag, outside teams are still allowed to negotiate with the player. If a team were to sign a player an offer sheet under the non-exclusive tag, that team would owe two first-round picks as compensation.

Cousins, who becomes the first quarterback in NFL history to be designated as his team’s franchise player in back-to-back years, is expected to earn approximately $24 million on a one-year contract.

If Cousins and Washington do not agree on a long-term contract within the next year, Cousins would be eligible to hit the free-agent market next year.

The 49ers were viewed as a team that would be interested in acquiring Cousins this offseason. Mike Shanahan was Washington’s head coach and Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in 2012 when Cousins entered the NFL in 2012 as a fourth-round draft pick.

Cousins, 28, has been Washington’s starter the past two seasons. He completed 69.8 percent of his pass attempts in 2015 with 29 touchdown passes and 11 touchdowns and a passer rating of 101.6.

Last year, Cousins was third in the league with 4,917 passing yards with an 8.1 average per attempt. He ranked seventh in the NFL with a 97.2 pass rating.

New 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are in the market for quarterbacks with the start of the free agency and trades scheduled for March 9.

Colin Kaepernick is expected to opt out of his contract. If he does not, the 49ers would not be expected to bring him back on his scheduled $14.9 million pay for 2017.

Each of the other three quarterbacks on the 49ers’ roster – Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis -- are scheduled free agents.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.