Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

The complicated aspect of the 49ers potentially parting ways with Dee Ford

Dec 4, 2020 at 10:36 AM--

Defensive end Dee Ford had hoped to play a significant role on the San Francisco 49ers defense this season. In fact, his goal was to play every down, which probably wasn't a realistic goal, but it was an admirable one.

"Every down. Every down. Every down," Ford responded when asked in September if he expected to see more playing time. "Pass rushing is what I do, but I make plays, at the end of the day. Pass rushing is what I do, but my goal is to be a great defensive player, not a great pass rusher. So, first, second, and third down. Fourth down, if we need it."

Ford played just 46 defensive snaps this season. All of them came during Week 1, and the veteran pass rusher hasn't played since due to a back injury. His durability has been in question.

When Ford is on the football field, he can make a game-changing impact. The problem has been his availability. Ford has missed 10 games in his two seasons with San Francisco, and he was limited in many of the games last season due to lingering injuries.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that he doesn't expect Ford to return this season.

"It's not looking like [he'll return]," Shanahan told reporters. "I mean, I'm not going to say no for sure. We're holding out hope, but it's not looking like it."

Ford is set to earn base salaries of $15.15 million next season and $16.15 million in each of the following two seasons. That's a lot of money for a player who can't stay on the field. One might think the decision of whether or not to keep Ford is an easy one. It's not, however. And that has to do with his current injury.

"Ford, who's been dealing with a back injury, has to be healthy before the 49ers can release him," Matt Barrows explained in a recent mailbag column for The Athletic. "If he can't pass a physical by April 1, then they might be on the hook for a big chunk of his 2021 salary — $11.6 million. It's something to monitor as the offseason begins."

Basically, if Ford isn't healthy by that April 1 date, there may not be a significant benefit to parting ways with the defensive end, except to free up a roster spot. Barrows does note that he believes the 49ers will cut Ford at some point. He just has some health hurdles to clear before they can do so.

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