49ers should apply the franchise tag to Eric Reid, not Jimmy Garoppolo

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Eric Reid #35 celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Eric Reid #35 celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers will to have some tough free-agent decisions to make this offseason. And one should be franchise tagging safety Eric Reid, not quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

It’s been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers used the franchise tag on a player. 2012, in fact, when the team tagged former Niners safety Dashon Goldson, who eventually left in 2013.

Heading into 2018, general manager John Lynch and Co. have some tough decisions on their hands regarding how they want to handle the list of pending free agents. Among the players, three stand out as potential candidates to receive a franchise tag — running back Carlos Hyde, safety Eric Reid and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

With the ability to tag just one player, Reid should be the guy San Francisco tags. Not anyone else.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Let’s get the Hyde talks out of the way first.

Hyde, 27 years old, led the Niners in both receptions (59) and total yards from scrimmage (1,288) last season. He’s indicated the desire to return. But with fellow tailback Matt Breida having a promising 2017, and redshirted rookie Joe Williams an X-factor, it’s possible San Francisco simply wants to move on.

The 49ers could re-sign Hyde, as the market for free-agent running backs will be pretty light. But they won’t break the bank for Hyde either. If he does return, it will only be on a deal almost entirely beneficial to San Francisco.

Which leads us to the other two franchise tag candidates, Reid and Garoppolo.

Why Not Tag Jimmy G?

Honestly, it does make some sense to apply the tag to Garoppolo, as the 49ers play will be to get him signed for the long run at some point sooner or later.

A one-year franchise-type deal would call for a “prove it” season from the quarterback, without forcing the Niners to commit long term on a deal that could, if things go poorly, hinder the future of the organization.

Heck, even head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated it a real possibility last November.

But franchise tags can lead to messy situations. We broke this down earlier, specifying why it would be wiser for the 49ers to go with a long-term deal now instead of later.

Related Story: 49ers' best option for Jimmy Garoppolo's 2018 contract

If Garoppolo winds up being the steal most of us think he already is, why risk what would likely become a massive, record-breaking contract in 2018 if he winds up having a breakout campaign?

Why Tagging Eric Reid Makes Sense for the 49ers

On the surface, it would appear the Niners have little reason to re-sign or tag Reid this offseason.

First, Reid lost his starting strong safety job to fellow defensive back Jaquiski Tartt, only to get it back after Tartt went down with a broken forearm midway through the year.

But that’s a hint as to why the tag makes sense.

There’s more too. The Niners have a bit of a camp battle emerging at free safety, where former first-round draftee Jimmie Ward will look to recapture his starting job. Standing in the way, though, is soon-to-be second-year pro Adrian Colbert, who caught fire in the second half.

Ward is injury prone, having landed on season-ending injured reserve in three of his first four seasons in the NFL. Colbert, while promising, is relatively untested. A full season’s service should hopefully provide more evidence.

The biggest factor overall is depth. Reid had an up-and-down year, eventually finishing 2017 strong and registering a solid 81.4 overall grade, per Pro Football Focus, which ranked 32nd out of 89 qualifying safeties.

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Additionally, Reid provides locker-room leadership. It’s not uncommon to see him breaking down the pre-game huddle on game days. Don’t overlook this.

Remember, the 49ers suffered serious injuries to three of their starting-caliber safeties this year — Reid (knee), Ward (forearm) and Tartt (forearm). With Reid’s ability to play both safety spots, he adds depth in a worst-case scenario.

Tagging Reid would buy San Francisco time in determining whether or not Colbert and, to a much lesser extent, Tartt are long-term answers.

Next: 3 49ers who possibly get the franchise tag in 2018

With the cap space to do it, it’s the more plausible approach for the Niners in 2018.