Dee Ford injury news has to be disappointing for 49ers

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Dee Ford (55) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Dee Ford (55) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

After some hope earlier this season, it’s looking more and more like Dee Ford won’t be coming back to help the 49ers at all for the rest of 2021.

The San Francisco 49ers intended to have one of the most prolific outside pass-rushing tandems after drafting EDGE Nick Bosa and trading for former Kansas City Chiefs EDGE Dee Ford during the 2019 offseason.

And for part of the year, it worked. Despite dealing with injuries, Ford finished with 6.5 sacks that season despite playing only 226 defensive snaps over the course of 11 regular-season games.

Both Bosa and Ford missed the vast majority of 2020 with injuries, of course, and it was something of a shock Ford was able to return for 2021 despite the serious back injury suffered the year before.

Only to see that back injury flare up again, which landed Ford back on injured reserve where he’s been ever since Week 7.

Granted, there was some potentially good news just a few weeks ago when the Niners opened up Ford’s practice window on Nov. 25. Yet Ford wasn’t able to return to action, and the deadline for San Francisco to either activate him or lose him for the rest of the season on IR is Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Kyle Shanahan delivers not-so-good news on Dee Ford

With Wednesday’s deadline looming, head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke to reporters on Monday about the pending decision.

The news isn’t great:

"I believe we’ve got to make it by Wednesday and yeah, we’ll see how that goes. That’s something that I never can predict, but I’ll be surprised if he’s back. I think we’ll just have to continue playing without him."

While the NFL has retained “short-term” injured reserve, adopted last year because of COVID-19, a player unable to return after having his practice window opened would mean he can’t come back at all that season.

Fortunately, despite the 49ers not having identified a quality No. 2 pass-rusher to make up for Ford’s absence, Bosa has shouldered the load with a team-high 14 sacks and league-leading 18 tackles for a loss.

That’s helped.

What’s next for Dee Ford, 49ers after 2021?

The Niners reworked Ford’s contract last offseason, and he’s now signed through 2022 with 2023 being a voided year.

While it’s impossible to have any clue whether or not Ford will be healthy and/or willing enough to come back to the game, suggesting an injury-related retirement is always possible, the clearer move from San Francisco’s vantage point would be an offseason cut.

According to Over the Cap, Ford is scheduled to earn $11.9 million in 2022. If the 49ers were to cut Ford, probably with an injury settlement, they’d save a shade over $2 million in cap space against $9.8 million in dead money if done before June 1.

If the Niners can figure out a way to have Ford on the roster after that date, though, it would result in $7 million cap savings against $4.9 million in dead money.

San Francisco would surely like to entertain the latter, but it’s probably a safe bet to assume Ford has played his last down with the 49ers in light of what’s been a disappointing injury-plagued tenure.

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