49ers

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

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

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.

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than they know what to do with, so the five-year, $87.5 million contract they reportedly gave Ford -- after the Chiefs rescinded their franchise tag -- isn't a long-term concern.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.

49ers Mailbag: Will 49ers look for safety help after Jimmie Ward injury?

49ers Mailbag: Will 49ers look for safety help after Jimmie Ward injury?

One week of 49ers organized team activities is in the books.

Nearly a quarter of the 49ers’ 90-man roster is sidelined by injuries. The good news is that none of the unexpected ailments is expected to keep anyone out of action into the start of the regular season.

Let’s open the 49ers Mailbag to see what’s on the minds of those chiming in on Twitter (click here to follow @MaioccoNBCS):

Will SF be looking to sign another safety (Tre Boston, Eric Berry, etc) since Jimmie Ward got injured? (@Irfannzo)

I do not get that sense.

Here’s something I feel confident about stating: If you believe the 49ers have major weaknesses at the safety positions, the organization disagrees with you.

Jimmie Ward is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks (I’m hearing the 12-week estimate is being ultra-cautious). The 49ers believe, if healthy, Ward is their best defensive back. Period. So if they believe he is going to be ready from this injury in plenty of time for the regular season, then they also believe there is no reason to react.

Of course, this latest injury only adds to the long list of broken bones Ward has experienced since becoming an NFL player. So the 49ers must also be comfortable with the backup.

The backup free safety, Adrian Colbert, was the no-questions-asked starter at that position last year at this time. He did not build on the promising end to his rookie season, and now he figures to be No. 2 on the depth chart.

There is a segment of 49ers fans who are asking about Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. But applying the same reasoning as the drawback to Ward, those players do not make much sense, either. Berry, 30, has missed 29 games the past two seasons due to injuries. Thomas, 30, has missed 19 games the past three years with injuries. Ward, 27, has missed 21 games the past three years.

As for Boston, he is seen as more of a hybrid safety, and not necessarily the kind of player who is a fit for the 49ers’ need. Boston, 26, remains unsigned, and could be heading for his fourth team in four years.

Plus, if the 49ers believe a healthy Ward is better than all the available options – and, yes, that’s what I believe the 49ers believe – then, why would one of those veteran players come to the Bay Area on a one-year contract to be an insurance policy?

Are the 49ers wrong in their assessment of the safety positions? We’ll find out. But I do not believe they feel an urgent need to bring in a veteran – at this time.

Which RB will get the most touches in the regular season? (@EliasMata)

The big question with Jerick McKinnon is whether he will be the same player in his first season back from ACL surgery. It might take him a while. Therefore, Tevin Coleman is most likely to be the back who gets the most touches – both as a runner and a receiver.

Coleman is the clear favorite with the next three players in line, McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, unable to participate in OTAs.

What do the 49ers have for a succession plan for McGlinchey when he replaces Staley? Will we see that in the draft next year? (@TnNinerfan)

Joe Staley enters the final year of his contract. He will be at left tackle for as long as he wants to play – and as long as he continues to play at a high level. Mike McGlinchey moves four spots to this left when Staley steps aside.

By the end of this season, the 49ers should have a good idea whether Shon Coleman or Justin Skule -- or someone else on the team -- can start at right tackle for the future. If the long-term answer is not on the team, they will look toward the 2020 draft.

How worried should we be about Bosa’s injury situation (@ssschreffler)

Nick Bosa sustained a grade-1 right hamstring strain during OTAs on Tuesday. That’s not a big deal at all. Other top defensive rookies, Quinnen Williams (calf) and Josh Allen (knee bruise), are also missing time with their respective teams.

If the 49ers want to get Bosa back on the field for the end of OTAs or the mandatory minicamp, they can do that. My guess is they’ll shut him down, as a precaution, to get him ready for the opening of training camp in late-July.

But when you take into account his history, then I can completely understand the concern. It was Bosa's only real drawback as a draft prospect.

Who do you predict will play more snaps on the defensive line in 2019 between Armstead and Thomas? (@Citizen510)

Arik Armstead is a very good run defender. That’s his forte. Solomon Thomas is still trying to find his niche. I think they will both get a lot of playing time, but my guess is Armtead sees more playing time.

The 49ers’ adjustments on the defensive line should benefit both players. So, ultimately, the 49ers will ride the player who gets hotter as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations.

Matt, who do you think the favorite is to start at SAM now that the 49ers are moving to a more traditional 4-3 front in their 9-wide scheme? (@Chazcast)

Mark Nzeocha lined up at the strong side position with the first team last week during OTAs. But I’ll go with Malcolm Smith as the starter, as long as he’s healthy. The 49ers would not have restructured Smith's contract and brought him back if they viewed him as a backup and special-teams player.

My wife and I take "gamecations" from Santa Fe, NM every year. Which away game do feel is best to go see this season? Unfortunately, we chose Seattle last season. (@ShanoPerez)

OK, now we’re talking. I love this stuff.

First, a word of advice: Make it about more than the game. If your enjoyment of a football trip is based solely on the outcome of a game, there’s a good chance you’re going to come away disappointed.

Seattle is absolutely one of my favorite road trips because the stadium is walking distance from any hotel downtown. Moreover, the restaurants, craft breweries and sites are as good as it gets.

New Orleans is unlike any NFL city in the country. Yes, Bourbon Street is dirty and stinks, but the food is so great. As I see it, New Orleans and Washington are the clear favorites for top 49ers road trips for 2019.

[RELATED: Jimmy G back on the field, expects to be ready for camp]

Ordinarily, Seattle easily ranks ahead of Los Angeles, but that game falls on Week 17 this year. That makes it a crap shoot of what you’ll be getting. Arizona is good, but I dropped it down to last place this year because not a lot of people can get away for a Thursday game.

I also believe the rest of the trip should build up to the game, not the other way around.

49ers' George Kittle rated as top tight end in NFL, per Sporting News

49ers' George Kittle rated as top tight end in NFL, per Sporting News

Who is the best tight end in the NFL?

Well, believe it or not, 49ers GM John Lynch isn't 100 percent confident saying George Kittle deserves that title.

Nevertheless, Sporting News declared the 25-year-old is the best guy in the league at the position -- and there is plenty to back up that statement.

Last season, the Iowa product set the 49ers franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end in a single season with 1,377. He also averaged 15.6 yards per catch, which Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer dubbed as "ridiculous." And he's not wrong. 

Kittle should benefit even more from a full season with Jimmy Garoppolo, who also will have new pass-catching weapons Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd and Jordan Matthews at his disposal. 

[RELATED: 49ers considered Ward's injury history with one-year deal]

Kittle finished his 2018 campaign with 88 receptions, five touchdowns, and well, you know the yardage.