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Kirk Cousins, Vikings, 49ers

How Kirk Cousins could play for the 49ers in 2020

The San Francisco 49ers have to plan for the future. Heading into Week 17 of the 2018 season, the Minnesota Vikings had a chance to make the playoffs with a win over the Chicago Bears. Instead, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense looked out of sorts; losing 24-10.

By falling to the Bears, Minnesota ended the year with a record of 8-7-1 while the Philadelphia Eagles snuck into the playoffs at 9-7. A record of 8-7-1 was not what the Vikings envisioned when they signed Cousins to a three-year, $84 million, fully-guaranteed contract before the 2018 season.

The year prior, veteran Case Keenum was able to lead the Vikings to an NFC Championship Game berth. Unfortunately, Minnesota’s season was ended by the Eagles. Nick Foles seemed destined to carry the city of Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl victory.

After the 2017 season, the Vikings believed they were one franchise quarterback away from inching closer to the Lombardi Trophy. That is where Cousins came into play. The hype surrounding the team skyrocketed when it signed the much-discussed quarterback.

Before deciding on the Vikings, Cousins spent six seasons with the Washington Redskins. In his final three seasons in Washington, Cousins managed to put up respectable numbers with multiple 4,000-yard seasons under his belt.

Despite the numbers, fans and media alike have criticized Cousins for his inability to win against the top-tier teams in the NFL. While in the nation’s capital, Cousins accumulated an abysmal 4-19 record against winning teams.

At the end of his first season in Minnesota, Cousins had posted 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. On the surface, Cousins had a phenomenal season, but when taking a deeper look at it, his struggles against better teams resurfaced.

In 2018, the Vikings’ $84 million quarterback held a record of 1-6 against teams with a winning record. Furthermore, the former Redskin quarterback has faltered in primetime (Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night) games.

Over his seven-year career, Cousins boasts a 5-13 record in nationally televised games. This wasn’t the only reason the Vikings failed to get on track, but it didn’t help. There’s a ton of pressure for the veteran quarterback to deliver for the Vikings in his second season with the team—or else.

After reading up to this part of the article, you may be wondering what the point of this is.

Here it is: Cousins could be on his way to the Bay Area after the 2019 season ends its course. How is this scenario possible?

Early in his career with the Redskins, Cousins began to develop when Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington from 2010 through 2013.

Fast forward to now. Shanahan is the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach. The young, offense-minded head coach was in need of a franchise quarterback for his offense. San Francisco acquired Jimmy Garoppolo near the end of Shanahan’s first season in 2017.

At first glance, it seemed Shanahan got the guy he wanted the whole time. Or did he? After some time passed, 49ers general manager John Lynch said that Cousins was Shanahan’s first choice under center.

Cousins ended up signing with the Vikings after playing two consecutive seasons under the franchise tag in Washington. At the same time, the 49ers handed Garoppolo a five-year, $137.5 million contract to (seemingly) secure him on a long-term basis.

With this in mind, both deals haven’t eliminated the possibility that Cousins will find his way back to Shanahan. When taking a thorough glimpse at Garoppolo’s contract, there’s a loophole in it.

After the 2019 season, the 49ers have a chance to cut ties with their current quarterback. However, Garoppolo is returning from a torn ACL he suffered in 2018.

Next year, Garoppolo holds a dead-cap value of just $4.2 million. That means the 49ers could cut him with little to no problems arising from it. His release would make room for a certain quarterback to join the roster via trade.

Furthermore, they could wait to release him after June 1 in 2020 to incur a dead-cap penalty of just $1.4 million. Nevertheless, if Garoppolo doesn’t play up to Shanahan’s standards in 2019, the 49ers’ head coach may get the guy he wanted all along.