KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs, as expected, have placed the franchise tag on linebacker Dee Ford ahead of Tuesday's deadline.
The Chiefs applied the non-exclusive franchise tag on Ford, a source told Chiefs Digest. That tag allows Ford to sign an offer sheet with another club, but the Chiefs have the right to match any deal. If Ford signs with a new team, that club must forfeit two first-round draft picks to Chiefs. Using the non-exclusive tag means Chiefs must offer Ford a one-year contract tender of $15.44 million.
The move keeps the club's options open regarding Ford for the upcoming season. That includes keeping him in the fold for the 2019 campaign, working on a long-term contract extension or trading the edge rusher.
The Chiefs tagged Ford as an outside linebacker, the position he played each of the past five seasons in Kansas City's 3-4 defense. With the Chiefs moving to a base 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, it remains unclear if he remains at linebacker or kicks inside to defensive end.
“I’ll be perfectly honest, really haven’t figured that out yet," Spagnuolo said last month. "I think myself, linebackers coaches and defensive line coaches would still like to figure that out. I don’t think we are ready to put a tag on it one way or the other.”
General manager Brett Veach said last week that the club will listen to offers for fellow linebacker Justin Houston. Reports also circulated during the NFL Scouting Combine that the club would entertain offers for Ford as well. Placing the franchise tag on Ford allows any potential talks to continue.
The two sides also have until July 15 to reach agreement on a multi-year extension. After July 15, Ford can only play under the franchise tag in 2019.
The options for moving Ford or signing a long-term deal may hinge on what other teams do with their premier pass rushers. Seattle placed the franchise tag on edge rusher Frank Clark on Monday, and Houston did the same with Jadeveon Clowney. Dallas also expects to tag edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence. Until one of these players sign a long-term deal, the market will likely remain frozen for pass rushers.
Ford has indicated he would play under the tender offer if necessary. The one-year deal of $15.44 million nearly matches the $16.88 million Ford made under the five-year contract he signed as a rookie that concluded last season.
“If somebody offers you $20 million would you take it?” Ford asked in December, overestimating the franchise tag contract value.. “That's a no-brainer right there, dog.”