The Chiefs are set to place their franchise tag on Dee Ford, as expected. The unexpected news: they are going to listen to trade offers for the sixth-year pass rusher, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).
Kansas City is shifting to a 4-3 defense under new DC Steve Spagnuolo, and although Ford played defensive end at Auburn, the Chiefs are evidently willing to explore trading one or both of their edge defenders. Justin Houston trade rumors emerged this week as well.
This would change the pass rusher market, which is set to see its top prizes, per usual, receive franchise designations. DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and Frank Clark are set to be tagged by Tuesday’s deadline. None of the other three have been mentioned as tag-and-trade candidates. Ford is the first to officially be tagged, and Schefter adds the Chiefs do plan to use him as an end this season. This may be contingent on the franchise not being blown away with a trade offer in the meantime.
Ford has not enjoyed a consistent career, failing to see the field much as a rookie and being an injury replacement for Houston for a period during his second season. In 2016, Ford broke out with 10 sacks, and the Chiefs picked up his fifth-year option. However, an injury ended Ford’s 2017 season early, and that option vested because he was not healthy enough to pass a physical last year.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old pass rusher, though, delivered his best season in his contract year, registering 13 sacks and forcing seven fumbles. He is now in line for a $17MM payment, once he signs his franchise tender, and when healthy has produced more than the pass rushers likely to hit the market.
It seems unlikely both Ford and Houston would be traded, with the Chiefs — who already have major questions on defense — not having surefire replacements on a Super Bowl-contending roster.
The duo played well together as 3-4 outside linebackers last season, their first extensive run as a starting tandem. Both were key components of the Chiefs’ run to the AFC championship game. While Ford’s neutral-zone infraction allowed the Patriots to escape with a victory, denying the Chiefs their first Super Bowl berth in 49 years and placing the Pats in position to claim another Super Bowl title, he earned his first Pro Bowl berth during the regular season.
Houston is two years older than Ford and has a $15.25MM salary in 2019. He has enjoyed the better statistical career, but injuries have limited him since he signed that six-year, $101MM contract. Two years remain on that deal.
Neither Chief comes with too much certainty, but both figure to draw extensive interest on the trade block. Kansas City also has significant contracts to authorize soon, in Chris Jones and Tyreek Hill. And Patrick Mahomes is on track for an NFL-record deal come 2020. It appears unlikely the Ford-Houston tandem will be in place by then, and it might be broken up in the coming weeks.
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