Get ready to say goodbye to Eric Reid.
Nothing is official, of course. The 49ers could still decide to hang on to their veteran strong safety who was the team’s top pick in the 2013 draft. But as the free-agent period approaches, it seems likely the team will move on from Reid, whose contract expired after the 2017 season.
Reid went into 2017 expected to thrive in the new defensive scheme of coordinator Robert Saleh, playing closer to the line of scrimmage – as in the Seahawks scheme – to provide extra run support.
Yet Reid, who played in 13 games, was shuttled around the secondary because of injuries and the emergence of safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. Reid played strong and free safety as well as linebacker in passing situations.
In fact, Saleh applauded Reid’s team-first approach and willingness to embrace any role he was given. After playing outside linebacker in a loss to the Eagles, Reid was praised by Saleh, who called him “awesome.”
“I’m sure there’s a couple of plays he wants back, but you look at a guy like Eric and he’s so locked in,” Saleh told Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group. “He’s very smart, first and foremost, and he has such long arms and he is very physical. It was very natural for him in there.”
Saleh, in fact, said he believes the 6-foot-1, 213-pound Reid could “be a force” as an outside linebacker in nickel and dime packages.
Reid said he enjoyed the experience, but would rather be in the secondary.
“I prefer safety,” he said at the time. “That’s what I’ve played my whole life, but if the team needs me to play linebacker, then I’ll do it. When I’m on the field, I just do my job.”
And, in 2017, Reid actually did a fine job. In a recent rating of NFL strong safeties by Bleacher Report, based on play this past season, Reid came in at No. 10. Tartt, however, came in at No. 3. Tartt, too, is under contract through 2018. It seems likely the 49ers would allow Reid to go to free agency and go with Tartt and Ward at the safety spots, with second-year man Adrian Colbert also in the mix.
Plus, Reid could likely get a much bigger salary elsewhere. There could be plenty of teams lined up to make Reid a quality offer to play strong safety.