49ers acquire Pro Bowl pass rusher Dee Ford in trade with Chiefs
The 49ers made a blockbuster trade Tuesday evening.
They dealt their second-round pick in 2020 to the Kansas City Chiefs for edge rusher Dee Ford, then gave Ford a five-year, $87.5 million contract extension, according to published reports.
Ford, 27, recorded 13 sacks and 29 quarterback hits in 2018. Both statistics were career highs. Despite his stellar play last season, the Chiefs refused to give him a long-term contract extension. Instead, they gave him the franchise tag on March 2. They reportedly felt Ford didn't defend the run well enough and wouldn't fit their 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Chiefs had used a 3-4 defense the past five seasons, and Ford was one of their starting outside linebackers.
The 49ers also use a 4-3 defense, and it isn't clear where they plan to play Ford. They could line him up at strong-side linebacker - the linebacker who lines up closest to the tight end. Or, they could play him at “Leo,” which is the 49ers' weak-side defensive end - the defensive end who lines up farthest away from the tight end.
Wherever the 49ers decide to play Ford in their base defense, they certainly will play him at defensive end in their nickel defense during passing downs. He is their best edge rusher.
Ford wasn't always considered a good player, though. For the first four years of his career, he was a borderline bust.
The Chiefs drafted Ford with the 23rd pick in 2014. As a rookie, he started zero games and recorded just 1.5 sacks. And in 2015, he started five games and recorded four sacks.
In 2016, Ford had somewhat of a breakout season - he recorded 10 sacks and 17 quarterback hits. But in 2017, he recorded just two sacks and seven quarterback hits in six games, and missed the remaining 10 games with a back injury that required surgery. Ford finished the 2017 season on the injured reserve list.
In 2018, Ford returned for the final season of his rookie contract, and played well enough to earn a multi-year mega-deal. But the Chiefs still wouldn't give him one. They felt he was replaceable. So, they sent him to the 49ers, who clearly feel Ford will be essential to their defense.
The 49ers haven't had an edge rusher as productive as Ford in seven years. Last season, their best edge rusher, Cassius Marsh, recorded just 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits - both career highs. The last time a 49ers edge rusher recorded at least 13 sacks in a season was 2012, when Aldon Smith recorded 19.5.
Ford should significantly improve the 49ers' pass rush.
And he may not be the only edge rusher the 49ers acquire this offseason. They currently own the second pick in Round 1 and the fourth pick in Round 2 of the upcoming draft. The 49ers could use one of those picks on another edge rusher, such as Kentucky's Josh Allen, Ohio State's Nick Bosa or Florida State's Brian Burns.
The 49ers are clearly in the market for a starting cornerback. On Tuesday, they offered cornerback Bradley Roby a one-year deal, according to published reports. Roby rejected the 49ers' offer and accepted a one-year, $10 million contract from the Houston Texans.
The 49ers still have options. They can sign a one-year stopgap, someone who can start in 2019, or at least compete for a starting job. Someone such as free-agent cornerback Pierre Desir or free-agent cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Desir, 28, originally was a fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Last season, he played 16 games for the Indianapolis Colts, started 12 games and broke up eight passes. Dennard, 27, originally was a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014, and has played for the Bengals his entire career. Last season, he appeared in 13 games, starting nine.
Bradley Pinion agreed to a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday, according to reports. The 49ers drafted Pinion in the fifth round in 2015. He was their starting punter the past five seasons as well as their kickoff specialist.
Current 49ers long-snapper Kyle Nelson agreed to a four-year deal that will keep him with the team through 2022. Nelson, 32, has been with the 49ers since 2014.
Last season, the NFL suspended him 10 games without pay for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances policy. Nelson served four games of the suspension in 2018 and must serve the remaining six games to start 2019.