In a widely anticipated move, the Chiefs are expected to apply the franchise tag to Dee Ford.
According to a report from NFL Network, the organization is expected to keep Ford around as new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo converts the Chiefs’ defense from Bob Sutton’s 3-4 scheme to his own 4-3.
General manager Brett Veach suggested this would be the team’s move when he spoke with beat reporters in a conference call nearly two weeks ago.
“We are running a different scheme now, and Steve has had the chance to start the process on Monday of going through the roster and kind of look at these guys not knowing where they were drafted or how much money they are making,” Veach said. “He will just give you a pure feel on strengths, weaknesses and how we can get better. And then we will throw our dialogue in there with the other information in regard to what we can do to get creative in regard to structuring things from a cap standpoint.
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“Obviously, Dee is a player that has done so much for us, in particular last year. We are excited about bringing him back.”
Tagged as a linebacker, Ford will be paid an estimated $15.78 million in next year’s salary on a one-year deal, according to estimates by OverTheCap.com. The franchise-tag salary is determined by averaging out the pay for top-paid players at that particular position.
If he went untagged by the March 5 deadline, Ford, 27, would hit the free-agent market on March 13. He’s coming off the best season of his career, having totaled 13 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2018.
“He was at the top of his game,” Veach said. “Really, when we drafted Dee (Ford) a few years ago, all those things that we envisioned for him, he kind of showed that he was that player.”
Last month at the Pro Bowl, Ford said he wasn’t concerned about the new defensive scheme affecting his potential to be tagged with the franchise designation.
“It’ll be easy to plug me into the defense,” he told The Star. “Whatever we decide to do is whatever we decide to do. And we’ll move from there.”
Ford played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Auburn and transitioned from that role to outside linebacker after he was selected by the Chiefs with the 23rd overall pick in the 2014 draft.
“I was a 4-3 end first,” Ford said. “It’ll be nothing for me to press play and go back to those days.”
Applying the franchise tag to Ford would be the first of a handful of major decisions facing the Chiefs this offseason. They will also have to decide what to do with the contracts of veterans Justin Houston and Eric Berry. Houston’s contract will take up $21.1 million in cap space next year, and Berry’s would eat up $16.5 million.
Parting ways with both would result in dead money, but it could free up a significant amount of cap space.