The 49ers have struggled to draft an elite pass rusher in recent history. They hope trading for Dee Ford will give them a sure thing on the edge.
Pass rushers have flown off the shelves early in NFL Free Agency. The 49ers chose to address their need for an established pass rusher via the trade market. San Francisco’s front office is betting that Dee Ford’s breakout season in 2018 is just a sign of things to come for the talented defensive end/linebacker.
In many ways, agreeing to trade terms with the Chiefs was the easy part of this deal. The 49ers will send Kansas City a second round pick in 2020 in exchange for Ford.
What’s the tough part for San Francisco was meeting the player’s new salary demands. Ford’s new team will pay him $87.5 million over the next five years to keep him on the roster through the prime of his career.
49ers Grade: B+
This wasn’t a no-brainer for San Francisco, but that’s only because of the big money extension they needed to give Ford after the initial trade. For the purposes of this piece, evaluating both the trade and contract in tandem goes into determining the trade grade.
There’s no question Ford will give coach Kyle Shanahan’s defense a massive boost. It will be interesting to see just how the 49ers use their new star. Expect him to get most of his snaps at the outside linebacker spot, but don’t be surprised if he plays some conventional defensive end on obvious passing situations.
His presence on the field is going to really help the rest of the 49ers’ front seven. DeForest Buckner is already a good player, but the attention offenses are forced to pay to Ford will make him even more effective.
Ford’s presence up front might even allow Solomon Thomas to finally come into his own. Thomas has obvious talent, but his production hasn’t been good during his NFL career.
The only question you can really ask about this deal is whether Ford was the best pass rusher available this offseason. The 49ers could have gone with a free agent without being forced to sacrifice the second round pick.
Overall, Ford has the chance to develop into a premier sack artist over the full length of his new deal. The 49ers paid a hefty price, but Ford could make this deal look great if he plays up to his full potential.
Chiefs Grade: C-
The Chiefs clearly didn’t want to pay Ford the type of contract he wanted, which is tough to understand given just how close they are to winning a Super Bowl. Letting a pass rusher of Ford’s caliber go will put a lot more pressure on the new defenders arriving in Kansas City this offseason.
If you accept that the Chiefs were going to move Ford, getting a second round pick in next year’s draft feels like a decent, but unspectacular return. It would have been nice to get a first rounder if they were going to be forced to wait until 2020. Evidently, that offer wasn’t out there.
We like most of the things the Chiefs have done in free agency, but this move is the worst of the bunch. It’s not terrible, but it’s a below average decision by a quality front office.