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Injury guarantee could complicate Ford's situation with 49ers

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The 49ers are in a position, along with most NFL teams this offseason, to take significant measures to cut their payroll.

After a league-wide salary cap of $198 million in 2020, the cap is expected to fall precipitously in 2021 due to losses in revenue during a season played during a global pandemic that hit the United States particularly hard.

The NFL and NFL Players Association on Thursday announced a floor of $180 million per game -- a $5 million increase per team over the initial agreement before last season.

Two of the 49ers’ four scheduled highest cap costs belong to players who were not healthy last season and may not be ready to go this year, either.

Defensive end Dee Ford has a salary cap figure of more than $20.08 million. Center Weston Richburg is on the books for $11.46 million.

Richburg has no injury protection written into his contract. The 49ers could save nearly $4.5 million if they were to release him three years into the original five-year, $47.5 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2018.

Richburg has not played since Week 14 of 2019, when he sustained a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He also dealt last season with a serious shoulder condition.

Ford suited up for Week 1 of last season, and played 46 snaps in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He never stepped on the field again due to an unspecified back condition. The 49ers acquired Ford in March 2019 and signed him to a five-year contract that averages $17 million per season.

Ford battled injuries in 2019, appearing in 11 regular-season games. He still managed 6.5 sacks. He added another sack in the postseason.


He is scheduled to make $15.15 million in base salary for the 2021 season. Ford would certainly be a salary-cap casualty this offseason, but his contract complicates the matter for the 49ers.

General manager John Lynch said last month there are no assurances Ford would be ready for the start of the 2021 season.

But Ford has an injury guarantee written into his contract. If he remains on the 49ers’ roster on April 1, $11.6 million of his base salary becomes fully guaranteed.

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Exactly how the 49ers plan to handle the situation is not known, as the club looks to trim costs in order to afford re-signing such free agents as left tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Jason Verrett and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

“February and March are tough months,” former NFL player agent and Green Bay Packers executive Andrew Brandt said on 49ers Talk.

“As someone who was on both sides, you get a lot of hurt feelings because this is when teams do the shedding. And there’s going to be more shedding than ever before this year.”

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