Through the first few weeks of the 2020 season, the San Francisco 49ers have been ravaged by injuries. Among those is star defensive end Dee Ford, who has struggled to move past a nagging back injury that has mostly limited him this year. With that ongoing issue, the conversation around his massive $85 million contract has begun, possibly being a mistake by the 49ers.
Dee Ford’s arrival to the 49ers
The 49ers have transformed into one of the top teams in the NFL behind their wealth of talent.
Much of that has come in the way of their stout defense that has plenty of game-changers. Among those is Dee Ford, who was acquired in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick before the 2019 campaign. The move also earned him a five-year, $85.5 million extension that runs through 2023.
In his first five seasons with the Chiefs, Ford established himself as one of the vital defensive factors. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2018 after compiling 13.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles. That guided him to the 49ers, where he has quickly been pinned as one of their most significant factor along the defensive line.
However, things have continued to pile up in the wrong direction for the star pass rusher.
Dee Ford’s inability to stay healthy
There is no doubt that Dee Ford possesses tremendous as a pass rusher, as he’s demonstrated throughout his career.
It’s been his struggles with injuries since arriving to the 49ers that draw great concern. In his first campaign in 2019, he was limited to 11 games in the regular season, with two starts compiling 6.5 sacks and six quarterback hits. Things have taken a similar path with injuries in 2020 as he’s played in one game with a tackle and no quarterback hits or sacks.
It’s still relatively early in the season, but there remains uncertainty about when Ford will return to action. There is chatter that the 49ers could place him on IR, which would keep him out for at least another three weeks. That brings into focus his massive contract as he hasn’t produced anywhere near the expectations that come with that deal.
Ford may be scheduled to make just over $6 million this season, but his production hasn’t matched what is expected from an $85 million deal. He has spent nearly as much time off the field as he has on through his first year-plus with San Francisco. Ford has the seventh-highest paid contract for defensive ends. Yet, Danielle Hunter has produced more with 14.5 sacks last year alone as he’s under a five-year, $72 million deal.
Cam Jordan is proving to be worth every penny of his three-year, $52.4 million deal that can run through 2024. He’s coming off a career-high 15.5 sacks in 2019, which is his third straight double-digit sack campaign. More than anything else, it further underlines that the 49ers are no getting anywhere near the production they are paying for with Ford.
Health remains key
There is much that can change with Ford’s health situation that could allow him to get back onto the field.
It has nothing to do with his talent, but more so with his inability to stay healthy. The last two seasons have been quite frustrating for Ford and the 49ers with his nagging injuries. All that is emphasized further due to the team’s plethora of injuries this year.
Ultimately, his contract will come down to his production, and if he can’t stay healthy, it will be hard to justify that he was worth that massive amount.