The 49ers acquired edge rusher Dee Ford from the Chiefs last offseason via tag-and-trade and then signed him to a five-year, $85MM contract. When healthy, Ford played reasonably well in 2019, but injuries limited him during his first season in the Bay Area.
The 28-year-old (29 in March) dealt with knee, quad, and hamstring injuries throughout the year, and he ultimately played in just 11 regular season contests. Even when he did suit up, San Francisco sometimes kept him on a pitch count, and he ultimately played in just 22% of the team’s defensive snaps.
Luckily, the 49ers had a great deal of depth along their defensive front, so they could withstand Ford’s absence. But the team doesn’t have a ton of cap space and needs to address the contract situations of defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, as well as tight end George Kittle. Armstead is reportedly open to playing out the 2020 season under the franchise tag, but San Francisco may need to cut ties with him, and if that happens, Ford will become much more important to the club’s pass rush.
And despite the list of ailments that Ford suffered through, he is not expected to need surgery this offseason, according to GM John Lynch (via Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee). “Not as we know right now,” Lynch said. “We’ll have those conversations. But, I think Dee is in good health right now.”
That could go a long way towards helping Lynch sort out his offseason priorities. If he can reasonably rely on a healthy offseason from Ford, that may allow him to save money on Armstead while addressing arguably more important free agents, like WR Emmanuel Sanders.
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