Free agent safety Eric Reid visited Cincinnati this week. Why it makes sense for the Bengals to sign the “controversial” defensive back.
The Bengals have had the second-most arrests of any NFL team over the last 18 years. For the last eight years, they’ve employed Adam Jones, a defensive back who’s been arrested 10 times, more than any other active player in the NFL.
Last year, they used a second-round pick on Joe Mixon in spite of the running back’s history that included an assault charge with video evidence showing him knocking out his former girlfriend and a parking citation that involved him “intimidating an officer,” according to the incident report. On the field, the Bengals have a reputation as one of the dirtiest teams in the league with Vontaze Burfict repeatedly being fined and suspended for cheap shots.
Here then, it would make sense to sign a good player with no character issues. Someone who can both play the game well and keep his name out of police reports.
You know who fits that bill? Eric Reid.
The Bengals had the eighth-ranked passing defense in the NFL last season. They have a pair of solid starting safeties in Shawn Williams (SS) and George Iloka (FS) and a pair of versatile reserve defensive backs in Josh Shaw and Darqueze Dennard who both play all over the defensive backfield. This coming season they have almost $21 million against the salary cap committed to the safety position.
So do the Bengals need Reid? No. Are there 15 other teams that could use Reid more than the Bengals? Yes.
Would it still make sense for the Bengals to sign him? Also yes.
Whatever your feelings on Reid’s personal views or protests are, there’s no denying that he’s a good football player. He’s not a perennial Pro Bowler or top five player at his position (he’d already be signed if he were) but he’d be an upgrade at safety for most teams, including the Bengals.
Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 30 overall safety in 2017, placing him ahead of both Williams and Iloka. He’s at worst a slightly-above average safety when it comes to coverage and he’s one of the better safeties in the league when it comes to run support. He’s absolutely one of the most physical and hardest-hitting in the NFL and in fact the 49ers played him at outside linebacker in addition to strong safety a season ago.
Given the amount of injuries across the league over the past several seasons, wouldn’t it make sense to add someone gives you depth at two positions and adds value as a defender in both the run and passing game?
Considering his situation and the lack of interest teams have shown in Reid league-wide, it’s safe to assume that Cincinnati would have the opportunity to sign him at a significant discount too. At only 26, he’s in his prime and has plenty of years left to warrant a multi-year deal. If the Bengals signed him to a three or four-year contract totaling $8-12 million, gave him a decent signing bonus and back-loaded the deal, it would give them depth this season without adding a huge hit to this year’s salary.
If he played up to his potential in 2018, as he has throughout his career with the 49ers, the Bengals could easily part ways with Williams or Iloka, and still be as good, if not better on the back-end of their defense. Plus it open up $2-3 million in cap room over the two following seasons that Iloka and Williams are signed through.
The organization might get some flack for the signing, even though Reid has said publicly that he no longer plans to kneel during the national anthem. It would be no more flack than they’ve gotten for everything else they’ve overlooked off the field in the last decade though, and there would be a decent contingency of fans and media members who would actually praise the Bengals for making a smart football move and a somewhat progressive decision. That would be a first.
Either way, almost any fan with an opinion will forget about everything else when Reid comes over the middle and levels a receiver or tight end to break up a pass on third down.
The only really dumb thing the Bengals could do here is to inject themselves into the conversation by inviting Reid to meet with the team, make it all about the anthem protests, then choose not to sign him. Staying on brand with the Bengals we’ve seen for the past 20 years, that’s probably exactly what they’ll do.