It wasn’t so long ago that the K.C. Chiefs were forced to face a difficult conundrum: what to do with pass rusher Dee Ford? In 2019, right around this time of year, the Chiefs either had to commit serious resources to keeping a young player who had just put up one of the best defensive seasons in the NFL or risk losing him in one way or another at a time when the team could hardly stand to lose a pass rusher.
Looking back, the Chiefs and general manager Brett Veach made the right decision.
These days, Ford is known as the single biggest headache on the San Francisco 49ers roster. Ford, as you might already know (or could easily surmise) is injured, as usual. The back issues that plagued him during his days with the Chiefs have not magically gone away after being traded to San Francisco two years ago. In fact, things have gotten worse. So now the Niners are on the hook for a lot of money to a player with little to offer.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, they made every wrong decision when it came to Ford.
The KC Chiefs made every right decision when moving Dee Ford.
For the sake of review, the Chiefs’ first decision they got right was the decision to use the franchise tag on him. Remember they could have just let him walk away in free agency to sign with any team he wanted. In return, they would have gotten a third round compensatory pick the following year. It might have stung at the time, but the Chiefs at least did have the option of not risking any money and just letting the chips fall where they may.
The second correct decision they made was to not hold onto Ford at that inflated price. At the time, the Chiefs would have paid $15+ million to keep Ford on the roster for that single season. Instead of paying him that amount to try to fit in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense as the incoming coordinator, Veach flipped Ford to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. In total, it allowed the Chiefs to eventually acquire Frank Clark (who cost a 1st in 2019 and a 2nd in 2020) and select Willie Gay, Jr.
To be fair to the Niners, Ford was coming off of a sensational year for the Chiefs. Per Pro Football Reference, Ford had 13 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 54 total quarterback pressures—an incredible total for any player in any season. It looked as if the former first round pick once invested in Ford coming out of Auburn was finally breaking through, making good on John Dorsey’s initial vision when selecting him in 2014.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, they not only tried to overlook Ford’s extensive injury history but they also rewarded him a bit too early with a contract extension. Instead of leaving him in another contract year on the franchise tag, the Niners gave him a five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million.
Two years into the deal, the Niners are now looking to get out of it all, but it’s not an easy proposition. Ford’s cap number remains huge for the Niners at this point, especially after they restructured his deal last season which kicked financial commitments further into the deal’s latter seasons. At this point, the dead cap space would eclipse the $14 million mark, and trading him with this albatross is next to impossible. An injury settlement with release is possible, but that’s going to cost an arm and a leg for the Niners as well.
During the last two seasons, Ford has shown he’s not a pretender in a contract year since he’s been plenty effective in the snaps he’s played. While played only 22 percent of all snaps in 2019, Ford had 6.5 sacks for San Francisco and it’s important to remember that their defense helped them all the way to the Super Bowl. Last season, however, Ford played in only one game and he’s not even a lock to be healthy for next season’s opener. Yeah.
So at this point, it’s safe to say that on the subject of Dee Ford, the Chiefs not only made every right decision but the Niners have done just the opposite. And as the headlines feature the Niners wrestling with what to do, Chiefs Kingdom can take comfort that he’s not their concern any longer.