Kansas City Chiefs face difficult decision with Dee Ford’s future

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25: Guard Rees Odhiambo
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25: Guard Rees Odhiambo /

Perhaps no player this offseason has more questions to his status then pass rusher Dee Ford.

Since coming into the league at a first round pick in 2014, perhaps no player with the Kansas City Chiefs is a greater question mark than linebacker Dee Ford. Due a relatively high salary in 2018, questions abound concerning what the organization should do and will do with the former Auburn pass rusher. Here we’ll attempt to gather some facts and made a somewhat educated guess.

The most difficult piece of Ford’s situation rests with the numbers. Since 2014, Ford’s rookie season, no Chiefs player has matched his sack total of 17.5. That’s not a bad number by itself, especially for a player that will still only be 27 when the 2018 league year starts.  The Chiefs appeared to miss Ford’s edge rushing talents greatly in the second half of last season when Frank Zombo manned the right outside of the defensive front.

The concerns

The Chiefs’ concerns begin with Ford’s talents outside of being a pass rusher. There really are none. In his four years in the league, Ford has managed a total of 81 tackles.  For a quick comparison, Frank Zombo over the same time period has recorded 111 tackles. (Zombo has also recorded a respectable 5.5 sacks over the past four seasons as a backup linebacker) We’ll circle back to this issue in a moment.

More from Arrowhead Addict

The other issue for Chiefs fans is where those sacks came from. Ford had a really good start to his 2016 season replacing Justin Houston on the right side, recording 10 sacks in the Chiefs first ten games, including the impressive 3.5 sack game against the Colts. However, once Houston returned and Ford moved to the left side, Ford would not record another sack the remainder of the season. Was what we saw in those first ten games a mirage (production we had not seen before and haven’t since)? Or was it an indication of what was to come? It’s hard to be sure.

We have now circled back to the tackling, or Ford’s lack thereof. Coming out of Auburn in 2014, Dee Ford was knocked roundly by scouts for his issues and inability to play the run. Athletic with good quickness and pad level, Ford was roundly noted that his inability to play the run and set the edge would create issues for the defense. All of these worries have become true at the pro level. While you can not ignore 17.5 sacks in four years, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that teams scheme running the ball directly at Ford, knowing he’s not capable of consistently helping. Ford’s lack of overall tackle production is reflective of his inability to be an asset stopping the run.

The question remains, then: what do the Chiefs do with Ford this offseason, who is due 8.7 million in 2018? Should the Chiefs release Ford, knowing there would be no cap penalty for doing so? Do they keep him and let him play out the 2018 season, or do they try to work out an extension?

Trade possibilities?

More than likely, Ford will not be released. No player currently on the market can bring what Ford does as a pass rusher. And while the Chiefs will be letting go of multiple players this offseason in a much needed effort to create cap room, I don’t see Ford being one of those players, especially with the defensive staff returning. That however doesn’t mean Ford will necessarily be back.

With John Dorsey in Cleveland, Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, Chris Ballard in Indianapolis and Matt Nagy in Chicago, there are former Chiefs personnel out there that could be interested in trading for Ford. Indianapolis has loads of cap room and so Ford’s salary may not be nearly the concern on a one year deal as it would be for the Chiefs. The same goes for Dorsey. Chicago has multiple pass rushers set to hit the free agency market (Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston) and could be looking for a replacement. It’s unknown what the opinion of Ford is, thus it’s difficult to truly know what the interest would be.

Regardless, unless Ford is traded, I’d expect Ford to be back. However, that position is still a major area that will need to be addressed. Ford is not an every down player, and the Chiefs, regardless of his salary, must approach the upcoming season with that idea in mind. If the Chiefs can find a more ‘everydown’ player, someone that can help stop the run while offering some pass rush ability, that has to be a priority. You then allow to Ford to truly become a one-trick pass rushing pony in 2018, and let the chips fall where they will after the season.

Some potential help

A player that I’m a fan of that could be both available and a fit is Giants linebacker Devon Kennard. Taken in the same 2014 draft out of Southern California (USC); Kennard has produced solid numbers
with the Giants and is the same age as Ford. Since coming into the league, Kennard has recorded 203 tackles and 9.5 sacks in nearly the same number of games (Ford has played in 51, Kennard in 52.) With a new staff in New York, perhaps Kennard is not retained, and the Chiefs are able to land the young linebacker. He’s not a star, but could be a solid piece when surrounded by a developing Chris Jones, Justin Houston and others.