Dee Ford, known for costly penalty, could help 49ers become contenders

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

Dee Ford, known for costly penalty, could help 49ers become contenders originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

The next time we see Dee Ford play in an NFL game, it'll reportedly be in a 49ers uniform.

The last time we saw Dee Ford play in an NFL game, he arguably cost the Chiefs a shot at the Super Bowl.

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It's true. With his team leading the Patriots 28-24 and 1:01 remaining in the 4th quarter of the 2019 AFC Championship Game, Ford's former teammate Charvarius Ward appeared to clinch the victory for Kansas City when he intercepted New England quarterback Tom Brady on 3rd-and-10.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, however, the interception was negated because Ford lined up offside. The Patriots retained possession and went on to score a touchdown to take a temporary lead. The Chiefs then tied the score at 31-31 with a field goal in the final seconds of regulation, but we all know how that one ultimately worked out.

The Patriots are reigning Super Bowl champions. And Dee Ford is no longer a member of the Chiefs.

It's truly a shame that Ford's most memorable play as a professional football player is one so notoriously remembered by his former team's fan base. Because Ford is one hell of a football player.

Make no mistake, the Chiefs didn't let Ford go because they didn't want him, or as some form of retribution for that costly penalty. Ford was rated as the top edge rusher by Pro Football Focus last year, and you don't let that kind of talent go voluntarily.

No, this was more about planning for the future from the Chiefs' perspective. Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm this past season, and the promising young quarterback likely will receive a contract that will dwarf all others once his rookie deal comes to an end.

So, the Chiefs had to make a tough decision, and the 49ers were there to capitalize.

San Francisco has more money to spend than they know what to do with, so the five-year, $87.5 million contract they reportedly gave Ford -- after the Chiefs rescinded their franchise tag -- isn't a long-term concern. Plus, given the creativity they've used in structuring deals in recent years, it wouldn't be surprising if we learned Ford's contract was primarily front-loaded.

And, by the way, Ford is worth it.

In terms of average annual value (AAV), his new reported deal puts him right in line with other edge rushers that have reportedly reached agreements in free agency, and you could certainly make the case Ford is the best of the bunch.

Former Patriot Trey Flowers, 25, reportedly agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract with the Lions in free agency, with an AAV of $18 million per season. He accounted for 7.5 sacks and 78 quarterback pressures (second-most in NFL) for New England last season.

Former Raven Za'Darius Smith, 26, reportedly agreed to a four-year, $66 million contract with the Packers, with an AAV of $16.5 million per season. He registered 8.5 sacks and 60 total quarterback pressures for Baltimore last season.

Ford, 27, tied for eighth in the NFL last season with 13.0 sacks for the Chiefs. His 84 quarterback pressures ranked first among all edge defenders in the league. His seven forced fumbles equaled as many as the entire 49ers' defense combined.

And all it cost them -- other than the money -- was a 2020 second-round pick.

The 49ers endured more than their fair share of injuries last season, and to some very crucial players early on like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon. One would assume they won't have as poor injury luck in the year ahead, and with an influx of talent -- namely Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft -- San Francisco could very well make the leap next season.

Just for fun, let's say they finish 9-7. That would make their 2020 second-round pick roughly the 50th pick overall. That's not just a price you pay every single time.

That's highway robbery.

[RELATED: Why Ford trade made more sense for 49ers than OBJ]

The 49ers' biggest need entering the offseason -- by far -- was that of an edge rusher, and likely multiple. They've addressed that need with their reported trade for Ford, and done so without emptying their cupboards of assets. They still possess the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft, and if they use that selection on, say, Ohio State's Nick Bosa or Kentucky's Josh Allen, it's easy to see why the 49ers would be excited.

Adding Ford to a pass rush that includes former first-round picks DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead, as well as potentially Bosa or Allen, would give San Francisco one of the most talented, daunting defensive lines in the league.

The 49ers still have a long way to go to build a championship contender, but Ford -- despite his previous mishap -- is the exact kind of player that will help them get there.

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