49ers cut Dee Ford 18 games into $85M contract

In 2019, the San Francisco 49ers traded a second-round draft pick to acquire Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs, then signed him to an $85.5 million contract with more than $33 million guaranteed.

On Wednesday they released him.

The 49ers cut Ford following an injury-plagued stint that saw him play just 18 games in three seasons and fail to return to the Pro Bowl form that made him one of the NFL's most coveted pass rushers.

The 49ers acquired Ford following a breakout 2018 campaign that saw him tally 13 sacks and an NFL-best seven forced fumbles on a Chiefs team that advanced to the AFC Championship. He's better-remembered that season for an offside penalty that sparked a comeback victory by the New England Patriots in that game.

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But he was a high-end pass rusher in peak form and given a fresh start in San Francisco after his infamous miscue that almost certainly cost the Chiefs a trip to the Super Bowl. Ford flashed that promise as a backup in his first season in San Francisco, tallying 6.5 sacks in 11 games on a loaded defensive line that featured Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead on the ends. But back problems limited him that season and have plagued him ever since.

Oct 31, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (55) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Back issues limited Ford's availability in San Francisco and ultimately led to his release. (Mark J. Rebilas/Reuters)

He played just one game in 2020 and six games in 2021. He finishes his three-season 49ers tenure having played 18 games while tallying 22 tackles, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He also had a sack and four tackles in three playoff games. He made just two starts in San Francisco.

General manager John Lynch alluded to his likely exit in March while speaking with reporters at the NFL owners meetings.

“I don’t see a lot of hope in him being a factor for us on the field moving forward,” Lynch said. “I think we’ve tried to be as patient as possible. No fault of Dee’s. He just ran into a bad situation with his back where he couldn’t get healthy."

Now his release is official, and Ford's NFL future as a 31-year-old with back problems is murky.