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49ers will find out Eric Reid’s value in 2017

Eric Reid has flirted with elite-level play, but he’s never quite made it over that hump. Will that differ with a position change in a contract year?

Eric Reid has, thus far, been a solid draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers. He was not the safety that most 49ers wanted out of that draft, but his hard-nosed play and aggressive style immediately endeared him to a fanbase well-conditioned for that sort of thing in recent years.

When concussions and other issues caused him to be somewhat less aggressive, that also vilified him for some of the fanbase. Reid isn’t the same player when he’s not charging forward and always on the attack. He’s a much worse player in that state, and that was born out in 2015.

That said, Reid still showed flashes of strong play that season, even amid talk that he should retire due to multiple concussions. I don’t personally know if he was ever considering such a thing, but the rhetoric was definitely present.

In May, I wrote that Reid has had two great seasons, one extremely poor season and one promising season. The promising year was 2016, when he was the unsung hero of a defense that wasn’t good in many areas, but when it made plays, it was often because of Reid.

Now Reid, a first-round draft pick, is entering the fifth and final year of his contract with the 49ers. There have been no contract talks, at least of about a month ago. I have no idea if the 49ers are interested in re-signing him, or if everything hinges on 2017.

But it’s a huge year for both sides, regardless. The 49ers don’t really know what they have in Reid. If he settles into being an average starter at strong safety in a league that has incredible talent at the position, that’s a disappointment. If he turns out to be a truly elite player, then he’s going to be making that statement not just to the 49ers, but to the rest of the NFL.

And that will surely drive up his price. The 49ers have continued to add intriguing safety talent in recent years, the least of which surely is no Jaquiski Tartt. I think he has some of the same potential Reid has but truthfully, anything involving Tartt will be a product of what happens with Reid out of the gate for this coming season.

I don’t know what kind of player Reid will be in 2017, or 2018 or any other year. I know what he’s been, and that’s been a very promising, high-ceiling player. Where he goes from here will be incredibly interesting, and is one of the biggest storylines for the 49ers, at least from where I’m sitting.