The Chiefs’ defensive overhaul intensified Tuesday night, this time with a trade sending pass rusher Dee Ford to the San Francisco 49ers.
Ford, a recipient of the organization’s franchise tag a week ago, will go to the 49ers in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick, a source confirmed to The Star.
According to a report from ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the deal is in line to be a five-year contract worth $87.5 million.
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With Ford gone, the Chiefs are down both of their top pass rushers from a season ago after releasing veteran linebacker Justin Houston on Sunday. But the moves have also freed up nearly $30 million in cap space, including an additional $15.4 million in cap space from the Ford trade.
Some of that $30 million will go to Tyrann Mathieu, whose three-year contract averages to $14 million per year.
Ford’s future in the organization was put into doubt when the Chiefs hired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in the wake of Bob Sutton’s firing. Spagnuolo intends to implement a 4-3 defense, essentially eliminating Ford’s outside linebacker position.
Ford, 27, played weakside defensive end at Auburn, but as an undersized defensive end by NFL standards, his fit on Spagnuolo’s line wasn’t automatic.
“Still kind of assessing that,” Spagnuolo said in Feburary when asked about Ford’s fit in the defense. “The one thing he can do, and we all know this, he is an explosive football player that makes a lot of plays. He’s had some production and if he is here with us, I’ll be excited to have him and be excited to work with him.”
Ford is coming off his best — and most complete — season with the Chiefs. In 16 games as a starter, he amassed 13 sacks to go with 51 tackles and seven forced fumbles.
He finishes his five-year Chiefs career with 129 career tackles and 30.5 sacks.
In other news Tuesday:
The Chiefs will sign linebacker Damien Wilson, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, when the new league year opens Wednesday, a source confirmed to The Star.
Wilson is the second player to agree to terms with the Chiefs during the NFL’s legal tampering period. Safety Tyrann Mathieu agreed to terms with the Chiefs on Monday. Over the weekend, the Chiefs also signed running back Carlos Hyde.
The 25-year-old Wilson is a traditional strongside linebacker in a 4-3 system, giving the Chiefs their first true strongside linebacker on the roster. With Wilson anchoring the SAM position, fellow former Cowboy Anthony Hitchens is expected to start at weakside linebacker. Reggie Ragland would man the middle. That would make 2018 third-round pick Dorian O’Daniel the team’s top linebacker substitute.
Also Tuesday, cornerback Steven Nelson agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Nelson put together a solid season in his contract year with the Chiefs, grabbing four interceptions to go with a career-high 68 tackles.
Nelson is receiving a three-year, $25.5 million deal, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Nelson was previously on a four-year, $2.9 million deal with the Chiefs.