The San Francisco 49ers may be up to something considering they just opened up nearly $10 million in cap space.
Per NFL.com’s Field Yates, San Francisco just gave themselves a significant amount of breathing room in terms of the 2020 salary cap by reorganizing defensive end Dee Ford’s contract.
The restructure was not an expected move, but it sets the 49ers up to either offer players new contracts or potentially sign a free agent ahead of the 1 p.m. PST deadline for the team’s final 53-man roster on Saturday.
Ford is entering his second season with the 49ers, and was scheduled to make a base salary of $13.7 million in 2020, which will instead be converted into a bonus to create a huge chunk of cap space.
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What it Means For Ford
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that the 49ers have now opened up a significant amount of cap space, it doesn’t make Ford’s dead-money impact any less eye-watering.
However, unless Ford got into off-the-field trouble or just poisoned his relationship with San Francisco, it wouldn’t make much sense at all for the team to cut him.
Ford was one of the league’s premier pass rushers with the Kansas City Chiefs, hitting 10+ sacks in two different seasons despite being hindered by injury for much of his NFL career.
In his first season with the 49ers last year, Ford was again limited, but was able to put up 6.5 sacks in 11 appearances and just two starts, which is an impressive return to say the least.
However, for the price of a second-round pick in the trade with Kansas City, he hasn’t necessarily proven to be exceptional value, which is probably why the 49ers were looking to restructure.
It’ll be interesting to see what the 49ers will do after the 2020 season with the former Auburn Tiger. There’s no doubt that Ford can still get after the quarterback, but for the money the team is paying him and other contracts the team will have to prepare in 2021, the 49ers may end up calling it quits on the Dee Ford experiment.
But until then, expect Ford to be on the roster and given plenty of opportunities to produce.
What are the 49ers Up to?
There’s already a few different theories as to what the 49ers plan is.
The most exciting idea is definitely the scenario in which the team is attempting to sign a big-name free agent like safety Earl Thomas or someone else, but that’s also the least unlikely scenario.
The most boring scenario is that the team is just cleaning up the cap after some massive moves like tight end George Kittle’s blockbuster contract, which forced some creative thinking from San Francisco this summer.
The only other real possibility is that the team is attempting to get a new, proper contract for new left tackle Trent Williams. With seven Pro Bowls to his name, Williams is arguably one of the best left tackles of the past decade and San Francisco likely wants to do whatever they can as quickly as they can to keep the tackle happy after a tumultuous few years in Washington before being traded this offseason.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the NFL for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.