Welcome to the first installment of “Making A Case”! Each week, until the beginning of Training Camp, I will be making a case for the Philadelphia Eagles to sign a current NFL free agent that fits a position of need. As we have seen recently, Howie Roseman is not shy of dipping his feet in the free agency pool in order to improve his roster. Alshon Jeffery, LaGarrette Blount & Chris Long were just a few of the pivotal pieces in the Eagles Super Bowl run that joined the team in free agency during the previous off-season. Howie has continued this trend by adding names such as Corey Nelson, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace being the most recent. With the Eagles still having holes to address, it should not be long before Howie has another free agent putting pen to paper in the Novacare Complex.
The first case to be made will be for Safety Eric Reid. A rather polarizing figure for his involvement in the anthem protest, Reid’s name has not been garnering as much attention as many may have thought. With a need for a third safety after the Eagles let Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins walk in free agency, Reid could be the one to fill the void in Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Name: Eric Reid
Weight: 213 Lbs
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod currently occupy the two starting safety positions. Unless there is an injury, the duo will continue to do so for the near future. Beyond the two starters, there is little in the way of experience in regards to safety. With the departure of Graham and Watkins, special teams ace, Chris Maragos is the only other player on the roster to have taken snaps at safety in 2017. Between the three backup safeties, Schwartz deployed them on nearly 59% of the time. Of those snaps, 52% were from the two departing safeties. Unless Maragos has a defensive renaissance or Randall Goforth proves to be a diamond-in-the-rough, the Eagles have a gaping hole to fill for Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Eric Reid was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 with the 18th pick in the 1st round. Reid is coming off the final year of his rookie deal in search of a new home. In Reid’s rookie year he would help the 49ers reach the NFC Championship game. This year he would see his only Pro Bowl appearance. Reid’s rookie year would see him amass 73 tackles, 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended.
Since his rookie year, Reid has seen his production stumble. In 2017 Reid suffered a PCL injury, which would cause him to be benched for Jaquiski Tartt. With Tartt overtaking Reid’s position, the career-long safety made the shift to weak-side linebacker. Having a larger build as a safety, Reid was able to easily adapt to the hybrid-linebacker role. The position Reid manned was similar to that of Deone Bucannon of the Cardinals and Shaq Thompson of the Panthers. Over the past year Reid’s name was mentioned more for his political stance than his on field presence. Reid was the first player to kneel for the national anthem along side Colin Kaepernick. Much like his former teammate, Reid now finds himself looking for a team that is willing to deal with the overbearing attention from the media.
As stated earlier, Jim Schwartz trusts his third/fourth safety to take a large chunk of snaps. Last year Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins were those guys. Schwartz had enough trust in Graham last season that he even put him one-on-one with Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl. The number three safety position on the Eagles is a hole the team cannot afford to whiff on. With a reliable third safety, Schwartz was able to keep Jenkins and McLeod in their natural position, back in center field. Reid may be a player that Roseman has his eye on to fill this position. And no, we’re not talking about Eric’s brother Justin, who the Eagles reportedly are bringing in for a pre-draft visit.
From an on field standpoint, Reid is more than capable of providing depth at the position. According to Pro Football Focus, Reid graded out higher than McLeod, Graham, and Watkins in both coverage and run defense. With a 6’1″, 213 pound frame, Reid offers nearly a 25 pound increase over Corey Graham. At 213 pounds, Reid would be more than able to hold his own in either covering tight ends. Schwartz loved deploying Malcolm Jenkins down in the box. Reid, with WILL experience, could overtake the in the box position to allow for Jenkins to rove in the back. If the Eagles were to trade Mychal Kendricks, the unproven Corey Nelson would be the only other WILL on the team. Bringing in Reid would not only provide you with a capable number three safety, but also provide insurance if Nelson were to struggle in the departure of Kendricks.
Reid seems like a no-brain signing for his on the field abilities. His political viewpoints may be the reason teams are staying away from the former pro-bowler. Not all teams though have a locker room identity quite like the Philadelphia Eagles. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, has made it known that he has an unwavering support for his players. Players like Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long have made their political viewpoints heard over the recent year. With the addition of Michael Bennett, it is widely known that the Eagles are not shy of supporting outspoken players. Adding Reid to a strong locker room seems like the perfect environment that would allow him to flourish.
Currently, Eric Reid’s market value stands at $8.6M according to Spotrac. Though that may be the full value of a former pro-bowl safety, teams are not to keen on paying players that will bring a large amount of media attention. Other names such as Kenny Vaccaro, Jairus Byrd, and Tyvon Branch remain in the safety market as well. The media attention coupled with the supply of FA safeties may see Reid land somewhere cheap. In 2017, Graham and Watkins combined for a cap of a little over $2.5M, a price I could see the Eagles paying Reid. With the Eagles having just under $3 million in cap a contract for Reid may be tricky. Howie has done more with less in the past and for a player of Reid’s caliber it may be worth the risk.
The Final Case:
Eric Reid came into the league with a bang in 2013. The talent has been proven in the past and at just 26 there is a lot of gas left in the tank. For a “luxury” signing this seems like an interesting deal if it were to happen. The Eagles need a third safety who is good in coverage and may soon need weak-side help. With Rodney McLeod having a potential out in his large contract this year, Howie may look to bring cheaper help to the safety position. To me this signing checks all the boxes. If Reid does workout he could be a cheaper heir to the free safety throne than McLeod. Say it doesn’t workout, the team is still strong at the position and won’t lose much financially. Prove-it deals are now Roseman’s specialty and I think there is much for Reid to want to prove.
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports