Ford, 27, was an unexpected selection for the Chiefs in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. But with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali entrenched as starters, Ford was seen as a developmental player and got little playing time in his rookie season.
In 2015 — thanks to an injury to Justin Houston — he got a chance to start five games. But outside of an explosive game against the San Diego Chargers, Ford didn’t do much to impress Chiefs fans and was still considered by most to be a player who had not justified his first-round selection.
That would change in 2016, when Ford would collect 10 sacks, 17 quarterback hits and a dozen tackles for loss in 13 starts. He appeared to finally be on track to be the player Chiefs hoped he would be when they drafted him two seasons before.
But that expectation would change again in 2017, when Ford made a strong start to the season but landed on injured reserve after six games. Once again, he became a question mark in the minds of Chiefs fans.
Back in August at Hawaiian Shirt Day at Chiefs training camp, AP founder Joel Thorman got a laugh out of all of us when he said, “I’m predicting a career year from Dee Ford. But I always predict a career year from Dee Ford.”
This time, the Blogfather was right.
An article by Evan McPhillips published Monday by Pro Football Focus makes a strong case that Ford is indeed having that elusive career year. As Pete Sweeney noted after the Chiefs win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in PFF’s estimation, Ford led the NFL in quarterback pressures after Week 5, and Monday’s PFF article says that after six weeks, Ford is indeed among the NFL’s elite edge rushers.
Ford deserves to be talked about among the elite edge defenders this season for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, his 87.8 pass-rush grade ranks second among qualifying edge defenders. Also, he ranks first in total pressures, first in quarterback hits, fourth in hurries and is tied for ninth in sacks. He has been both devastating and efficient, as evidenced by his 10.2 pass-rush productivity, which is tied for second among edge defenders with at least 50 pass-rushing attempts. Not only has Ford been a force on defense, but he has also been the anchor on a relatively weak defensive unit for the Chiefs.
It was not news to us that Ford is finally living up to expectations the Chiefs had for him in 2014. But on Tuesday, a tweet about the PFF article from former sports agent Joel Corry caught our attention:
Is Dee Ford this year's Demarcus Lawrence (pass rusher in a contract year with a breakout season)? It's probably going to be around $16.325M for KC to franchise Ford in 2019 if next year's salary cap is in the $190M neighborhood. https://t.co/PJlXXI3cz0— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) October 17, 2018
Corry is speaking of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Demarcus Lawrence, who is playing 2018 under the franchise tag, earning $17 million this season on the basis of his performance in his 2017 contract year.
A quick analysis reveals a lot of similarities in the career trajectories of these two players. Lawrence was picked only 11 spots after Ford in the 2014 draft. Nether had much playing time in their rookie seasons. Both have lost most of a season due to an injury — although Lawrence’s was in his third season, rather than his fourth. In addition, because Ford’s occurred in his fourth season, the Chiefs were forced to pick up his fifth-year option, which moved his contract year to this season rather than last season.
Dee Ford - Kansas City Chiefs
Demarcus Lawrence - Dallas Cowboys
These base stats from Pro-Football-Reference would suggest that Lawrence — an edge rusher listed as a defensive end instead of an outside linebacker — could be considered a better player than Ford at this point, but the season is still young. And so far, Dallas’ decision has paid off: Lawrence continues to play well.
Lawrence fought for a five-year deal with the Cowboys, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and Lawrence ultimately accepted the Cowboys’ franchise tender.
Should Ford continue to play at a high level through this season, will the Chiefs be able to sign him to a long-term contract? Or will they — like the Cowboys — be forced to use the franchise tag to keep Ford on the roster?
Corry notes that Ford will cost the Chiefs around $16.325 million to franchise tag. What would you do?
What would you like to see happen with LB Dee Ford after this season?
This poll is closed
Chiefs let Dee Ford go
Chiefs sign Dee Ford to a long-term contract
Chiefs franchise tag Dee Ford