Dee Ford received a bit of a financial windfall a few weeks ago when the Chiefs formally exercised his fifth-year option, which will pay him approximately $8.7 million in 2018.
But if you think Ford, 26, is even close to resting on his laurels after a breakout 10-sack season at outside linebacker, you’ve got another thought coming.
“It’s a good feeling,” Ford said of the Chiefs’ decision to exercise the option. “But my focus is on, if I do what I’ve got to do, the contract will take of itself.”
So Ford, a first-round pick in 2014 who generally silenced his critics after two quiet seasons to start his career, knows his work is far from done. His salary for 2018 is guaranteed only for injury, meaning the Chiefs can still release him before next season and wipe that entire salary from the books.
On the flip side, the Chiefs can still work out a long-term contract with Ford if they so choose, a decision that will, in part, hinge on his performance in 2017.
So while Ford’s stats were good in 2016, when he led the Chiefs in sacks and quarterback hurries (17), there’s still room for improvement.
“It was inconsistency,” Ford said.
Ford racked up his sacks in bunches last season, as all 10 came in the Chiefs’ first nine games. One thing that sticks in his craw is the fact that he failed to record a single sack in the Chiefs’ last eight games, a development Ford attributes, at least in part, to his ongoing battle with tendinitis, which was revealed by Chiefs coach Andy Reid during last year’s organized team activities.
“There were high points and there were low points — the ultimate point was that I wasn’t healthy,” Ford said. “You look back at this time last year and what you were doing and you tweak your plan so you don’t run into those brick walls.”
Ford is also adamant that the tendinitis had more to do with his drop in production than his switch from left outside linebacker to right outside linebacker, a move he was forced to make in late November, when star outside linebacker Justin Houston returned from injury and reclaimed the spot Ford had been thriving in for the better part of three months.
“I do different moves on the right side of the line than I do on the left,” Ford said, “but I can rush on both sides.”
So yes, Ford’s goal is to be healthy so he can execute those things. He believes in his pass-rush plan, and doesn’t anticipate making significant changes to his repertoire.
“I’m not changing anything,” Ford said. “I’m just trying to do what I do better.”
Part of that process, he said, will include working out with pass-rush specialist Chuck Smith in July as Ford prepares for training camp, which will begin later that month.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll rack up his stats, reach his potential and become the complete, impact pass rusher he longs to be so he can one day impact people’s lives off the field.
Ford has been formulating a plan to start his own foundation, which will be aimed at helping youths reach their potential through education.
“I want to be a man of influence,” Ford said. “And you can’t influence somebody if you’re not great.”