The 49ers on Wednesday announced the signing of defensive lineman Dee Ford to a five-year extension after acquiring him in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round draft pick in 2020.
Repeat, the 49ers announced the signing of defensive lineman Dee Ford.
During his five seasons in Kansas City, Ford was an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. All indications are Ford will be the “leo” in the 49ers’ 4-3 defensive alignment.
His job: Get after the quarterback.
Ford did his job exceptionally well last season, recording 13 sacks and forcing seven fumbles. Outside of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, the 49ers lacked a consistent pass rush. The 49ers, as a team, generated just seven takeaways on the season – the worst mark in the history of the National Football League.
Coach Kyle Shanahan hired Robert Saleh to implement the Seattle-style defense with the 49ers. It’s a 4-3 defense with essentially 3-4 personnel. The leo position is based on the elephant edge-rusher spot that George Seifert used with the 49ers in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Ford fits the height-weight prototype to play the leo position. The 49ers had little consistency at that position in the first two seasons with Saleh as defensive coordinator. Last year, Solomon Thomas mostly started at leo, but he either left the field on passing downs or moved inside to defensive tackle in nickel situations.
Ford is likely being counted upon to be an every-down leo – the pass-rusher the 49ers have lacked since Aldon Smith’s departure.
Here is how Ford height and weight compare to a list of players Saleh cited in 2017 as prototypical edge rushers at the leo position:
Dee Ford 6-foot-2, 252 pounds
Chris Clemons 6-3, 260
Cliff Avril 6-3, 260
Yannick Ngakoue 6-2, 246
Dante Fowler 6-3, 255
Vic Beasley 6-3, 246
Von Miller 6-3, 250
Khalil Mack 6-3, 252