During the past couple of days, both NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco and The Athletic’s David Lombardi have written articles about Dee Ford’s contract situation— in short, it’s complicated.
But Ford has an injury guarantee written into his contract. If he remains on the 49ers’ roster on April 1, $11.6 million of his base salary becomes fully guaranteed.
Exactly how the 49ers plan to handle the situation is not known, as the club looks to trim costs in order to afford re-signing such free agents as left tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Jason Verrett and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
In the event of a pre-June 1 cut, all $14.4 million of Ford’s prorated signing bonus money that has yet to hit the cap plus the $11.6 million injury guarantee would flood the books. That’d total a staggering dead money hit of $25.9 million, which would actually make it $5.9 million more expensive for the 49ers to cut Ford than to keep him in 2021.
A post-June 1 cut would allow the 49ers to push $9.6 million of the prorated signing bonus cap hits back to the 2022 books, thereby reducing Ford’s 2021 dead money charge to $16.4 million. But although the 49ers would save $3.7 million in this scenario, money they could utilize in a late-summer extension for linebacker Fred Warner, a $16.4 million dead cap is still massively inefficient.
Step 5: Draft Northwestern Offensive Tackle Rashawn Slater with pick No. 10.
The 49ers turn Bosa and Kittle into the two best offensive tackles in the draft (Sewell and Slater) plus the best corner in the draft (Surtain II) and the Heisman Trophy Winner (Smith). Not too shabby.
Step 6: Let Trent Williams walk in free agency.
No need to write him a blank check if the 49ers have both Sewell and Slater.
Step 9: Draft Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in Round 3.
Let him compete with Josh Rosen, Nick Mullens and a veteran for the starting job. All three of them should be able to succeed alongside Sewell, Slater, Smith, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Raheem Mostert.
The 49ers are in win-now mode and have the talent on offense to compete for another Lombardi Trophy, even with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. The team is only twelve months removed from an appearance in Super Bowl LIV, led by a historically dominant defense. That defense has taken some hits to its personnel in the last twelve months, including the loss of every starting cornerback to free agency. The front office needs to head into the 2021 Draft focused on filling the holes on that defense in order to reposition themselves as Super Bowl contenders.
The 49ers should not, and will not, trade up to draft a quarterback.
Smith’s production fell off a bit after his hot start to the season, but he was still making a difference in his limited role on Dallas’ defense. In three of the last four seasons, the 49ers have been bad about generating takeaways, ranking 20th or worse in those years. Smith could be an added playmaker for the 49ers, even if he is limited to a third-down specialist. This heads-up play, taking a fumble 78 yards for a score, shows his ability to affect the game even past his prime.
In his one-year contract with Dallas, Smith only accounted for a $1.3 million dollar cap hit for the Cowboys. While his price would increase after proving he is still productive, I can’t imagine he would find himself with more than a two or three year deal that eclipses $6 million. The 49ers are working against the cap this offseason, but Smith fits a need at a reason price as a third-down pass rush specialist.
And who doesn’t love a good comeback story?