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’s career with the San Francisco 49ers has been a mostly positive one, but 2017 is a huge year for him and for the defense as a whole. Reid, drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to be a free safety, has had two great seasons, one extremely poor season, and one promising season.
Now he’s playing with one year left on his deal and he’s undergoing a big change in Robert Saleh’s new defense: a shift in position. Reid will move to the other side of the field and compete with Jaquiski Tartt for the strong safety position, with Jimmie Ward, another first-round pick, taking over at free safety.
The extremely poor season was 2015. Reid did not flourish in Eric Mangini’s zone defense, and coming off a major concussion, he played what some would call “soft.” Reid avoided contact and the secondary as a whole suffered from miscommunication that led to some big, big gains for opposing offenses.
Some thought Reid might even call it a career the concussion was so severe.
But last season, Reid was the unsung hero of a bad defense that occasionally made some very good plays. Reid was at the center of those good plays, and was one of the best safeties in the league when on the field. He wasn’t contact-shy, and he flourished in the man-to-man focused defense from Jim O’Neil.
Unfortunately, Reid got little attention in one of his best seasons yet because the 49ers were — in so many words — a dumpster fire. And while fighting for his first contract extension in the NFL, Reid sustained a torn biceps and had to be placed on injured reserve, ending his season at 10 games.
This offseason, Reid has been outspoken and positive. He had good things to say about Kyle Shanahan and is particularly happy that Shanahan has roster control. In February, Reid “was told that if there was a game this week, he’d be able to practice.”
Let’s hope we don’t see anything as scary as this again.
Age: 25 (26 on December 10)
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 213 lbs
Reid is playing on the fully-guaranteed fifth-year option from his first-round rookie contract. He is due $5.676 million this season, money that became guaranteed on March 9.
Why he might improve in 2017
At 25 years old, Reid is still young and still has a lot of room for improvement. He was always a more physical, in-the-box, man-to-man kind of free safety and I don’t expect that role to change drastically with the official move to strong safety. Reid is a tough player who will rise to the occasion in his battle with Tartt, and he’ll likely win it. He’s healthy and eager and most importantly, confident in the new coaching staff.
There is every reason to believe Reid will be as good or better than he was in limited action a season ago.
Why he might regress in 2017
He’s learning a new defense for the nth year in a row and he’s learning a new position on top of that. In the recent past, San Francisco’s safeties have played more like a pair of strong safeties anyway, however. Reid has a lot of wear on his body for being only 25 years old, and will have some rust after tearing his biceps late in 2016.
His starting spot has also been essentially guaranteed the first four years of his career, but now he’s looking at a real competition with Tartt, who is younger.
Odds of making the roster
Obviously, Reid’s odds of making the roster are astronomically high, only departing in the situation where Tartt convincingly beats him. Even then, the 49ers would likely be able to find a trade partner for him. There’s no scenario where Reid is a free agent when the regular season starts outside of major injury.