With a bunch of in-house free agents but not a lot of cap space, these three players could be surprise cuts for the San Francisco 49ers.
Hit by a litany of injuries, the San Francisco 49ers fell from a Super Bowl appearance in 2019 to 6-10 last season. Better fortune on that front will almost be automatic next season, but a tough NFC West will be a challenge.
The 49ers have 37 restricted or unrestricted free agents to address the status of this offseason. One prominent free agent (Richard Sherman) has acknowledged he’ll be gone, as San Francisco sits with just under $13.4 million in cap space right now (according to Over The Cap).
The 49ers have to decide what to do at quarterback. They have been tepidly committed to Jimmy Garoppolo, while letting it out they’d need to make a “big swing” to move on from him. Moving on from Garoppolo would open up a lot of cap space, some of which would likely of course be shifted toward replacing him.
In the interest of freeing up their balance sheet some, here are three surprise cuts the 49ers could make this offseason.
3. DE Dee Ford
The 49ers acquired Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 for a second-round pick, then gave him a five-year, $85 million deal. A back injury coming out of Week 1 last season eventually landed him on IR, and in 2019 he registered just 6.5 sacks and 14 total tackles in 11 games.
Ford has an injury guarantee in his contract, and $11.6 million of his 2021 salary becomes fully guaranteed on April 1. It may only come down to how his release is orchestrated, and his health, for the 49ers to cut bait. A pre-June 1 cut creates $14.35 million in dead money, with $5.7 million in cleared cap space. A post-June 1 cut flips those numbers to $4.78 million in dead money to just under $15.3 million in cleared cap room (via Over The Cap).
Cutting Ford straddles the line of likely and surprising, based on some moving parts and acknowledging a costly mistake so soon. But the 49ers have a strong case to part ways, and there’s a path to doing it if they want to go down it.