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Free Agent Spotlight: DE Dee Ford

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Dee Ford had a great season at just the right time as he hits the open market.

NFL: Pro Bowl-AFC Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dee Ford may best be known by Buccaneers fans for his gaff in the playoffs where he lined up offside. What fans may not know is Ford was one of the best edge pass rushers in the entire league this past season.

The Buccaneers added the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry last off-season and the ladder has already parted ways with the team after an ineffective season due in part to the emergence of Carl Nassib who was claimed off waivers by Jason Licht.

With Curry out and a switch to a 3-4 defense, Tampa Bay is currently void of talent in the way of stand up pass rushers. Noah Spence certainly would be a candidate but after a head-scratcher of a 2018, it’ll be hard to say for sure if this current staff has faith in the young edge rusher continuing to develop.

This leads us back to free agent edge defender Dee Ford.

Could the Bucs land Ford in free agency?

Dee Ford’s Career

Ford was drafted with the 23rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The former Auburn Tiger started off his career relatively slow. Through his first 2 seasons, Ford was unable to make much of an impact as a pass rusher, tallying only 5.5 sacks combined. Year 3 is where Ford really got things going as he nabbed his first double digit sack year with 10 in Kansas City.

Ford got hit with injuries in 2017 and his season was derailed entirely, finishing with 6 games played and 2 sacks. The Chiefs brought back Ford on his 5th year option from his rookie deal and it paid off big time for both parties.

Ford led all edge defenders with a pass rush grade of 91.0 by Pro Football Focus and tallied a league high 78 quarterback pressures. Ford recorded at least 5 pressures and a sack 7 different times this past season.

Why The Buccaneers Need Him

The Buccaneers are void of proven talent to rush the passer off the edge. By all accounts, it appears that Gerald McCoy will still be here and will see work as one of two ends working the odd front next to Vita Vea. Jason Pierre-Paul was rumored to have been on the move due to a potential 4-3 to 3-4 shift which made him an option here in Tampa’s 4-3. It’d be hard pressed to believe JPP, coming off the best single season sack wise for a Tampa Bay defensive end since Simeon Rice, won’t be in the mix. That leaves the team with the likes of Noah Smith and.... well yeah that’s the point.

The Buccaneers could desperately use a top tier pass rusher with experience standing and moving about the line to attack from multiple angles. Dee Ford has proven in two of the past three seasons that he can be an elite level pass rusher, with the third season being an injury shortened one. Talent like this doesn’t hit the market often, and it may not hit the market in this case either as the Chiefs could potentially franchise Ford.

What Will Ford Cost?

Ford made $8.718 million this past season on his 5th year option and his number is set to skyrocket if he hits the open market as this years premier pass rush option for potential suitors.

A year ago Demarcus Lawrence tipped the franchise scale north of $17 million thanks to the tag. Ford will command a similar amount on the open market per year and that quite honestly should price him straight out of the Tampa Bay market considering the teams current salary cap situation.

Pass rushers are at a premium and one as young as Ford who is entering his true prime will make things a bit hairy should he hit the market and Tampa Bay enters into the mix with others including the Kansas City Chiefs.

Spotrac.com projects a hefty 16.3 million a year deal for Dee Ford, likely pricing him well out of Tampa Bay’s available cap space.

Will It Happen?

It’s slim. Incredibly slim.

Even with edge pass rushers being a position of need, there’s little reason to believe that Tampa Bay can swing a deal sweet enough to court Dee Ford into coming to Tampa.

Secondly, Dee Ford is in all likelihood looking to return to Kansas City. As is stated here, Ford would love to correct a critical mistake that potentially cost the Chiefs a Super Bowl opportunity. Toss in the fact that if a deal isn’t struck between Ford and the Chiefs, they will most likely slap the franchise tag on him, ensuring his return to Kansas City for at least the next season.

Dee Ford at this point is a bit of a pipe dream for Tampa Bay fans. Would it be great to have him? Absolutely. Can the team realistically pull the right strings to make it happen? More than likely... no. Don’t hold your breath for this one Buccaneers fans.