Trey Flowers

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than they know what to do with, so the five-year, $87.5 million contract they reportedly gave Ford -- after the Chiefs rescinded their franchise tag -- isn't a long-term concern.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

NFL rumors: How Trey Flowers, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle would fit 49ers

NFL rumors: How Trey Flowers, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle would fit 49ers

Landon Collins reportedly wasn't the only player to learn he'd become a free agent in the coming days. 

Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley and New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers did not receive a franchise tag from their respective teams, according to multiple reports. On Tuesday, the Ravens also reportedly cut safety Eric Weddle

All three play positions where the 49ers' needs are abundantly clear, but would any of them fit in San Francisco? 

Trey Flowers

Flowers should have a flowery outlook on free agency. Bad puns aside, he just might be the best player available on the open market. 

The 25-year-old is a versatile player, who Pro Football Focus graded out as a top-10 edge defender over the last three seasons with an overall grade of 88.7. The football analytics site rated Flowers as one of the best run defenders at his position, and an average-to-above-average pass rusher. He has also been durable, playing no fewer than 14 games in each of the last three seasons. 

The 49ers were decent defending the run last season, but could clearly use help rushing the passer. They likely are going to draft an edge-rusher at the top of the draft, but one player won't solve what ailed them. Flowers will be expensive, but the 49ers have the salary-cap space and the need to bring him into the fold. 

C.J. Mosley

Mosley has been a starter since the Ravens drafted him No. 17 overall out of Alabama in 2014. He has recorded at least 100 combined tackles in four of five NFL seasons, and manned the middle of one of the league's top defenses in 2018.

But Mosley's hype doesn't necessarily match his production. Pro Football Focus found that Mosley graded out as one of the best run defenders at his position, but he wasn't as strong defending the pass. 

Still, the 49ers' linebacking corps is likely due for an upgrade. The 49ers will have to make a decision on retaining Malcolm Smith soon, and could use help at the position whether or not Mosley is retained. 

[RELATED: Our latest mock draft after NFL Scouting Combine]

Eric Weddle

At 34 years old, Weddle is the oldest of the players mentioned here. He didn't record an interception for the second time in the last five years, and had a career-low three passes defended. 

Yet, Weddle still has something left in the tank. He was a pivotal part of a Ravens defense that allowed fewer yards than any other team last season, and made his sixth career Pro Bowl. 

The 49ers need help across the secondary, and a ball-hawk safety would go a long way towards improving their turnover numbers next season. If 2018 was not just a down year, Weddle might not be that at this stage of his career.