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Eric Reid could earn long-time role at linebacker if he plays well, says Kyle Shanahan

Reid doesn’t know if the 49ers plan to extend him past this season. He can force their hand by flashing at his new position.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eric Reid will be a free agent at the end of the season, and neither he nor the team know if he’ll be back. What we do know is that Reid had two position switches this season — from free safety to strong safety and then strong safety to weakside linebacker.

What both sides do know is this: Reid is a legitimate option for the position and both Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh believe Reid can succeed there. Best 11 players or not, the 49ers would not move Reid there unless they truly believed he could find success there.

On Friday, in addition to the confirmation that Reid is moving to linebacker and will play it primarily in the next game, we also learned that Shanahan told Reid that he is essentially auditioning for the long-term role at weakside linebacker, and his play will determine whether or not Reid is considered for a contract extension.

Shanahan also said, in so many words, that he wanted Reid on film first. He has plenty of film on Reid, of course, but none of it at the linebacker position he’ll now be playing. Shanahan also said that he’s “pulling for” Reid, but at the end of the day, Reid’s future is almost entirely dependent on his play.

Reid, for his part, has publicly accepted his new role, though his initial reluctance following his spot work at the position does have me wondering if he’s actually into the idea. Could we see Reid hit the open market as a safety and bad-mouthing the 49ers for the switch? I don’t think it’s terribly unlikely.