Eric Reid’s contract is up, and the 49ers need to decide whether to re-sign the defensive back, apply the franchise tag on him or let him walk.
From our last update in June, it was out that Reid hadn’t had any extension talks with the new front office. The likely dilemma is San Francisco has two quality box safeties in the veteran and one-time Pro Bowler, and a similarly hard-hitting but younger version in Jaquiski Tartt. But complicating matters is, while both are talented, neither Reid nor Tartt can stay healthy for an entire season.
Reid started 12 games this year, after only starting 10 the year before, and Tartt, who has never played a full season or even started more than half a year, only made eight starts in 2017 before going on injured reserve. Because of this, one could argue strong safety is worth investing in to ensure sure the team has adequate depth.
More specifically, the reason to tag Reid instead of extend him 2+ years or simply let him walk is this…
1. He's good: Reid, the 2013 first-round pick, who is one of the last ones standing from Trent Baalke’s tenure, is still only 26 years old coming off the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He is playing very good ball in Robert Saleh’s scheme which has him operating closer to the line of scrimmage. Reid in 2017 had 66 tackles, one fumble recovery, four pass breakups and two interceptions (13 games). He was also a straight animal in run support and against the short passing game, as he was seen constantly blowing up plays in the slot and in the flats. When healthy, Reid rated as one of the better safeties in the league. He had a career-high 26 stops at the line, which was nine more than he recorded in his 19-game rookie season, according to Pro Football Focus.
2. It's resourceful: The franchise tag allows the 49ers to essentially put off addressing the position for another year. They can delay until 2019 or 2020, while also seeing if Tartt can stay healthy and take the job over before sinking any more valuable assets there.
3. Risky long-term signing: The reason not to extend him beyond 2018 is because Reid also has a lot of mileage. If you include his days at LSU, his body has taken a beating over the last seven years. He dealt with a knee injury this past season, he went on IR the year before with a torn biceps, he had two concussions in 2013 (one in Week 2 and one in Week 10), and incurred a third in 2014. And because of it all, Reid, in the wake of Anthony Davis and Chris Borland walking away from the game, even contemplated retirement himself in 2015.
4. Why create a need? The reason you don’t let him walk is because if he left, a hole would open up on the roster and he’d be one of the better candidates on the market to fill it. This is arguably the best Reid has looked since he was a rookie. The 49ers can certainly get another quality season from him, while evaluating and letting things play out at the position between he and Tartt for another year.
5. $116M to play with: One of the richest teams in the league in 2018, the 49ers can also afford the ~$10.8M tag. They may not hit their ceiling cap-wise in outside free agents because of what’s out there. They can only make so many deals and the front office has reiterated that they will not force anything. Accepting the price of the franchise tag on Reid is a smart offseason investment. It guarantees stability at the position and frees up John Lynch to do more in free agency and the draft.
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