Making sense of the Dee Ford rumors with two theories

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting the Chiefs may move Ford for a second-round pick.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport joined Good Morning Football Tuesday morning to discuss Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford, who the team officially tagged Monday.

Rapoport: “A true standout, career year, but certainly a year where the Chiefs had been waiting on it. They had been hoping that he would kind of have this year, but there just wasn’t a lot of precedent before this year that this was coming. So what the Chiefs are doing right now—franchise tagging Dee Ford—certainly they are more than happy to keep him. If they do, it will be on that salary, play the 2019 season and then make a decision after this season, but I’m also told they are open to trading him, likely to a 3-4 team where he would have a better chance of fitting in. This kind of reminds me of the situation last year with Jarvis Landry, where a team liked a player, was happy to keep him, but let it be known that if someone wanted to come in, maybe someone starved for a pass rusher, and you know that there’s not a lot of guys available, maybe someone would throw them a say, second-round pick. It doesn’t need to be two [first-round picks]. A second-round pick for the rights to one of the premier pass rushers in the game.”

Well, that’s a lot to unpack, isn’t it?

The Chiefs officially tagged Ford as a linebacker on Monday, committing to $15.44 million on what would be a one-year deal for the 2019 season. According to Matt Derrick of Chiefs Digest, the tag is non-exclusive, meaning Ford could sign an offer sheet with another club. At that point, the Chiefs could match such an offer or receive two future first-round picks for his services.

The decision to use the non-exclusive appears to match the rumors from Rapoport regarding the Chiefs’ willingness to move the rights to Ford. Wanting to move the cap number ($15.44 million) is not the surprise here. The surprising part is that the part about the compensation—a second-rounder for Ford, a top-five NFL pass rusher.

From Chiefs general manager Brett Veach’s comments at the NFL Scouting Combine, I believe that whether it be by trade or release, Justin Houston’s days as a Chief are numbered. Houston’s departure would free up about $14 million in cap space.

I always thought one of the players mentioned above would be gone at the beginning of 2019, but not both. To the takes…

Theory one: The Chiefs have no intention of trading Ford but rather saving money.

The Chiefs are floating out to news-breakers that Ford may be a better fit for a 3-4 defense. This makes little sense, considering defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has downplayed defensive scheme this offseason and it is something Andy Reid has done in the past. Spagnuolo went as far as joking about the Chiefs “running the 5-6.”

I think the Chiefs may be floating out rumors about trading Ford while mentioning scheme to ensure Ford stays tagged as a linebacker rather than a 4-3 defensive end, where he played at Auburn.

Historically, the tag is determined by the position in which the player took the most snaps previously, but Ford could still make the case he should be tagged as a defensive end in a new scheme. There is no reason his agent shouldn’t be pushing for this. If they got their (hypothetical) way, Ford would make $17.13 million for the season, about $1.69 million more.

Since the Chiefs are already up against the cap with significant signings looming for 2019 and beyond, they need to save every dollar they can. The league settled on a hybrid tag for Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs 11 years ago, something they would like to avoid.

Theory two: The Chiefs would actually accept a second-rounder for Ford, which would be a mistake (from the outside looking in).

Perhaps, the Chiefs are comfortable building a new-look defense around the 24-year-old Chris Jones, who finished with 15.5 sacks in a breakout season in 2018. Word is the Chiefs have made Jones a 2019 offseason priority.

Teams treat Bears linebacker Khalil Mack and Ford differently when it comes to double teaming and attention. That needs to be noted. But Ford led all edge defenders with 77 pressures in 2018, besting Mack’s 73. Ford had a career-high 13.0 sacks.

While this year’s NFL Draft is strong when it comes to the EDGE position, moving Ford would be a significant risk. Trading someone with comparable numbers to Mack would be almost as silly as trading Mack.

There could be more here—maybe the Chiefs want to free up money and go all-in by making another free-agent offensive splash while relying upon Jones, Breeland Speaks and a young supporting cast led by Spagnuolo.

And that is the rub of speculation season. We try to make sense of the scribbles without any sense of the blueprint.

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