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Dee Ford trade anniversary: Did the 49ers do the right thing?

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Ford was traded a year ago Thursday. The answers will be all over the place for this, but I say yes.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

A year ago Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers traded a 2020 second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for pass-rushing extraordinaire Dee Ford, who then signed a five-year, $87 million contract extension that looked like a monster deal on the surface. Still, it ended up being a contract the team can get out of. At the time, we said if the 49ers make the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, the deal would be worth it. Ford was coming off a ridiculous 2018 season. He had the most pressures among edge rushers with 78, and also had 13 sacks. San Francisco needed a true “No. 1 threat” at the time, and Ford showed he was that guy in 2018.

The trade for Ford wasn’t without risk. Ford played a full season in 2018, but that had only happened one other time during his career. Ford suffered a concussion in the preseason of 2015, and he injured his back in pregame warmups in Week 11 of 2015 as well, which caused him to miss the following game. Ford suffered another concussion in January of 2016. The next season Ford had a hamstring sprain in November of 2016, but Ford didn’t miss any games. That year Ford finished the season with 12 sacks. Then 2017 happened, and Ford suffered a lower back strain and sprain in just over a month. Ford played fewer snaps in 2017 than he did for the 49ers in 2019. This sports injury website that tracks a player’s injury history predicts a 48% chance that Ford suffers another injury in 2020. They have Ford missing two games.

Why Ford wasn’t worth it

John Lynch bet against history. The injuries above weren’t going to go away magically. Ford has missed time due to injury every other season in his career. Ford played 22% of the snaps in 2019. When you give up a second-round pick, and his cap number is $14.6 million, you need more out of Ford. The Super Bowl was the second time in the season Ford played more than 40 snaps. The other time? Week 1. That’s concerning. While Ford had a sack against the Vikings in the Divisional Round, we didn’t see the same type of dominance in the playoffs that we saw from Ford earlier in the season. Is Ford’s play dropping off as the season goes along due to lingering injuries going to be a trend moving forward with the Niners? That’s something to monitor.

Why you do the deal again

We talked about this when we brought up how Cam Wake is a fit for the 49ers, but Ford did exactly what the team brought him in to do: get after the quarterback. Ford lead the NFL in pressure rate of 7.08%. That was better than Nick Bosa, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and any other name you can think of. Bosa was ridiculous as a rookie, and he pressured the quarterback just under 5.8% of the time.

Ford opened up the field for everyone else, and Bosa and Arik Armstead were quick to point that out. Ford’s speed around the edge doesn’t allow the quarterback to escape. He has to step up somewhere, and generally, that was into one of the 49ers rushers. The league average pressure rate in 2019 was 23%. With Ford on the field, the 49ers had the highest pressure rate of any team I could find in the last decade at 38%. Being 15% above league average in anything is impressive. Being 15% above league average in one of the most important defensive stats in football is reason enough to do the deal over again.

I’m not big on “soft factors,” aka things that have nothing to do with what happens on the field, but Ford leadership cannot be understated. Bosa said Ford gave him tips on how to finish plays as a rusher early in the season. If you remember, Bosa let a few sacks slip away. That wasn’t a problem as the season went on. DeForest Buckner called Ford an excellent teacher, and Armstead joked about Ford being the old man of the bunch, but how he continuously learned from Ford. It’s one thing to produce yourself; it’s another to players around you better. Ford did that. If I’m John Lynch, I make the deal for Ford ten out of ten times.

Poll

After one year, did the 49ers make the right decision to trade for Ford?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Yes
    (890 votes)
  • 11%
    No
    (147 votes)
  • 21%
    I need to see one more year
    (279 votes)
1316 votes total Vote Now