Dee Ford was an instrumental part of the 49ers’ dominant defensive line in 2019. Ford collected 6.5 sacks and forced two fumbles as San Francisco’s front seven fueled a trip to Super Bowl LIV.
But with a massive contract extension expected for All-Pro tight end George Kittle and the significant payday already extended to Arik Armstead this offseason, the Niners’ front office is facing some potential salary cap constraints.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski posed that one solution for the 49ers could be to find a trade partner for Ford and his $15.8 million 2020 cap hit.
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San Francisco currently has $15.7 million in available cap space, but Kittle and this year’s rookie class remain unsigned. Spotrac estimates that the five-player 2020 draft class will account for just over $7 million in cap space.
Kittle’s agent has remained steadfast in his belief that his client shouldn’t be viewed as a tight end in negotiations, likely meaning he will be seeking well over $10 million per season. Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers currently is the NFL’s highest-paid tight end at a $10.6 million base salary for 2020.
Ford did experience some injury troubles during the 2019 season, missing most of training camp and several games late in the season with knee and hamstring issues.
The 49ers traded a 2020 second-round pick last March to acquire and then sign Ford to a five-year, $87.5 million contract extension.
If San Francisco could work out a deal to trade Ford, it would greatly diminish the front office’s cap troubles. But Ford’s talent is no joke, as he led the NFL with seven forced fumbles during his last fully healthy season in 2018.
Obviously Kittle’s extension needs to be the 49ers’ top priority, but trading Ford might be the cost to awarding the tight end a record-breaking new deal.