49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave some disappointing injury news on edge rusher Dee Ford in his weekly media availability. Currently on injured reserve, the 49ers have until Wednesday to activate Ford in time for him to return this season. However, Shanahan told reporters on Monday, “I’ll be surprised if he’s back. I think we’ll just have to continue playing without him.”
Ford was first forced out with a concussion in Week 7, but soon reaggravated his back, which has been the source of severe injury issues throughout his career. Ford’s contract with the 49ers lasts one more year, but he currently seems like a candidate to be released this offseason.
While Ford has a cap hit worth just over $11.9 million in the final year of his contract, the 49ers would incur a nearly $10 million cap hit if they release him at the start of the offseason. However, by releasing him with a June 1st designation, the 49ers would take on a cap hit of just over $4.9 million in 2022 and 2023, which would create exactly $7 million in space this offseason.
The June 1st designation is one of the more peculiar mechanics of the NFL salary cap. June 1st marks the transition to a new league year and thus marks the point when teams can split the dead money incurred by a cut or traded player between the next two seasons. However, since most offseason action occurs in March and April, the NFL allows teams to apply a June 1st designation to two players every offseason, which allows them to incur the cap benefits before June 1st.
If the 49ers could only save $2 million by releasing Ford this offseason, they might prefer rolling the dice on his health next season. The June 1st designation, though, will significantly impact the decision-making process. While Ford has had his moments, he has played just seven games over the past two seasons. Given the Niners tight cap situation, it’s hard to imagine they will not be releasing him to the open market this offseason.