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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: S Eric Reid

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). We move on to free safety Eric Reid.

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

Eric Reid, he who said he thought about retiring and then said he never actually said that, was not particularly good for much of last season. In fact, I pegged Reid as the worst San Francisco 49ers player on the defensive side of the ball for six of the first 10 weeks of the regular season. He wasn't just bad, he was shockingly bad, which went against everything that everybody here came to expect of him.

There are those who will say that the serious concussion he sustained in 2014 affected his play, and I've seen people suggest he looked like he was playing it safe. Tentative.

I'd wholeheartedly disagree with that suggestion, as nothing about the way he struggled looked that way to me. To me, that suggestion was made by people who came up with an explanation and then proceeded to shoehorn him into their explanation. Reid just had a pad season on all fronts, and the 49ers paid for it.

The safety, the last line of defense, was not good. He took bad angles, he was frequently out of position and he missed tackles. It happened enough that I was wondering if he was uncomfortable in Eric Mangini's defense, and I still wonder if that was the case.

But the silver lining is that Reid rebounded and looked like his old self down the stretch. He did more than clean up his play, he looked completely transformed as a player. If he did a complete 180 from 2014 to 2015 with how poor his play was, he did a complete 180 in the other direction about halfway through the season. He was his usual hard-hitting, aggressive, intelligent self.

How that happened ... I have no idea. I studied an awful lot of tape of Reid and there's nothing glaringly obvious that jumps out to me as a reasonable explanation for his sudden transformation back into the player that had been so consistently strong since the 49ers drafted him. I know what he started doing correctly to improve his play, I just don't know how or why it suddenly clicked back into place for him.

Contract status

He is entering year four of his rookie contract. He will earn $1,561,467 in base salary, and has a cap hit of $2,698,422. The 49ers announced earlier this month that they have exercised Reid's fifth year option. It is worth $5,676,000. It is guaranteed for injury, and will become fully guaranteed if he is on the 49ers roster at the start of the 2017 league year.

Why he might improve

Reid is growing, and his ability to bounce back last season shows a mental toughness that we didn't know he had. You don't go from playing that poorly to playing that well without being able to shake things off. There's a new defense, there's the potential for a better safety opposite him and a better defensive front ahead of him. Reid has teetered on the edge of being a Pro Bowl-caliber player and him turning into that player wouldn't be surprising.

Why he might regress

It's really hard to ignore Reid's issues last season. He wasn't just bad, he was depressingly bad and it's inexplicable. I have no idea why he regressed, but he did. Reid, at this point, can be defined as "streaky" given his play last season. There's also the usual caveats, like the potential for Reid to not fit with the new defensive scheme.

Odds of making the roster

I don't quite know if Jaquiski Tartt is going to be the starting strong safety next season, but Reid's spot on the roster is obviously safe. He's the starting free safety and there's no chance he's released.