49ers get off to busy start in free agency
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers opened the new league year Wednesday by acquiring the defensive playmaker the team was sorely lacking in edge rusher Dee Ford.
The 49ers are sending a 2020 second-round pick to Kansas City for Ford and are giving him a five-year, $87.5 million contract, according to his agent.
San Francisco also agreed to a two-year deal with running back Tevin Coleman to add depth in the backfield, according to a person familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been announced. ESPN reported that deal would be worth $10 million.
The 49ers also agreed to bring back defensive back Jimmie Ward on a one-year contract worth up to $5 million, a person familiar with the deal said on condition of anonymity because the signing hadn’t been announced.
San Francisco also announced a four-year deal the team had agreed to earlier in the week with linebacker Kwon Alexander worth $54 million.
The Chiefs had placed the franchise tag on Ford after he had a career-high 13 sacks last season and led the NFL with seven forced fumbles. But they had questions about how he’d fit in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense and decided to trade him instead of paying him $15.4 million for this season.
Ford was picked in the first round by Kansas City in 2014 but went through some growing pains as he adapted to life in the NFL and has an injury history that is cause for concern. He had 17 1/2 sacks his first four seasons and was limited to just six games in 2017 because of a back injury.
But he emerged as a star this past season as a key part of a defense that helped Kansas City make it to the AFC championship game. But his offside penalty late in that game against New England negated an interception that could have sealed a victory. The Patriots scored a TD on that drive and won the game in overtime.
Ford led all edge rushers with 84 total quarterback pressures last season, according to Pro Football Focus, to go with the sacks and forced fumbles and is exactly the kind of playmaker the 49ers lacked on defense this past season.
San Francisco set an NFL record for futility with just seven takeaways, including a record-low two interceptions, as a lack of an edge rusher played a big role in a 4-12 season.
“You have to have a guy who can close out games, close out halves,” general manager John Lynch said at the combine when talking about the need for better pass rushers. “When you have them, they can be a difference-maker.”
The 49ers haven’t had an edge rusher reach double-digits in sacks since Aldon Smith had 19 1/2 in 2012 and have the fifth-fewest overall sacks in the NFL the past six seasons. DeForest Buckner led the team with 12 sacks this past season, mostly from an interior spot.
Coleman will be reunited with coach Kyle Shanahan, who was his offensive coordinator his first two seasons in Atlanta in 2015-16. Coleman rushed for 800 yards last season at an average of 4.8 per carry and also had 32 catches for 276 yards and scored nine TDs overall.
He will team in the backfield with Jerick McKinnon, who is coming off an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2018 season after being a big acquisition last March. San Francisco also has Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert as reserves.
Ward was a first-round pick by San Francisco in 2014 but has played only 51 games over five seasons because of various injuries. He has experience playing both cornerback and safety and offers versatility for San Francisco.