San Francisco 49ers release injury-plagued defensive end Dee Ford

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After three injury-plagued seasons, Dee Ford’s stint with the San Francisco 49ers is officially over.

The Niners released Ford Wednesday in a move that had been expected since Ford’s 2021 season ended in December and he was on injured reserve with an ongoing back problem.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch said Tuesday that a move with Ford would be imminent after hinting at NFL owners’ meetings in March that Ford had played his last snaps with the team.

“I don’t see much hope that he’ll be a factor for us on the field to move forward,” Lynch said at the time. “We tried to be as patient as possible and through no fault of Dee’s he just got into a bad situation with his back where he couldn’t get well. He’s in rehab, but I don’t see him as a part of us.”

With Ford dealing with an ongoing issue, the Niners were patient before releasing him to distribute the salary cap fees remaining on his contract. Since the move occurs Wednesday after June 1, the Niners will spread the majority of the more than $11.5 million left over from his deal over the next two years. The move saves $1.12 million from the 2022 salary cap.

For the Niners, Ford’s release is a disappointing end to a once promising union between player and team. The Niners originally acquired Ford in a 2019 trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a second-round draft pick. The 49ers promptly signed Ford to a five-year, $85 million contract with visions from Ford and colleague Nick Bosa that would devastate the quarterbacks for years to come.

There was a glimpse of that in 2019, when Ford had 6.5 sacks in 11 games and San Francisco rose to an appearance in Super Bowl LIV. But Ford struggled with multiple injuries this season and the back problems that had plagued him since his Auburn days never went away.

All in all, Ford appeared in just 18 regular season games with 9.5 sacks over three seasons in San Francisco. He played in six three-sack games in 2022 before landing on injured reserve.

The 49ers capitalized on their first pick in the 2022 NFL draft — No. 61 overall — at defensive end Drake Jackson with a view to Jackson becoming Ford’s long-term replacement.

“[Jackson] just jumps out of the movie in terms of his…talent and his length and his ability to turn corners and redirect, all of the things we look for and covet in a defensive ending,” Lynch said in April. “We think he’s the best in front of him.”

Ford, 31, was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2018 season with the Chiefs. He has 40 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and 159 tackles in eight NFL seasons. San Francisco 49ers release injury-plagued defensive end Dee Ford

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