INDIANAPOLIS — Linebacker Dee Ford returning to the Chiefs in 2019 via the franchise tag appears a foregone conclusion, but the Chiefs have yet to pull the trigger, and general manager Brett Veach gave a hint to the reason why on Thursday.
"It's a little bit tricky because no one has kind of shown their hand at what they're going to do," Veach said during his appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine. "So it's a little bit of a guessing game."
A franchise tag contract for Ford projects to approximately $15.7 million. The league determines the amount in April following the first few weeks of free agency. The number could rise based on new deals handed out in the next few weeks.
That means Ford and the Chiefs are closely watching what happens with other potential free agent edge rushers. It's a potentially rich group that includes Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence, Seattle's Frank Clark and Houston Jadeveon Clowney. The first player to sign sets the market, and thus far no player or team shows signs of blinking to be the first to ink a longterm contract
The Chiefs aren't alone playing the waiting game.
Only one NFL team has officially tagged one of their potential free agents. The San Francisco 49ers used the non-exclusive franchise tag on kicker Robbie Gould. That designation differs from the exclusive tag. Gould can solicit offers from other teams, but the 49ers have a right to match the offer. If another team signs Gould away, they would surrender two first-round picks to the 49ers. That scenario seems highly improbable.
Teams have until 3 p.m. central time Tuesday to use the franchise or transition tags on pending free agents. The Chiefs would most likely use the exclusive franchise tag on Ford, which requires offering a one-year contract tender equal to the salary of the top five highest-paid players at the same position.
If the Chiefs tag Ford, the two-sides have until July 15 to reach agreement on a multi-year extension. After July 15, Ford could only play under the franchise tag in 2019.
Ford has indicated he would play under the tender offer if necessary.
“If somebody offers you $20 million would you take it?” Ford asked in December. “That's a no-brainer right there, dog.”
Veach spoke with Ford's agent Adisa Bakari a few days ago. He said they had a great dialogue and will remain in touch through Tuesday's deadline.
"But the good thing is we were able to speak to him after the season, we spoke to his agent and everyone is on the same page."