The Washington Redskins recently released tight end Jordan Reed, and Niner Noise explains why he may be a good addition for the San Francisco 49ers on the cheap in NFL free agency.
With the San Francisco 49ers being somewhat hampered by salary cap space, it makes sense why going after big-name additions like wide receiver A.J. Green wouldn’t make sense. Our own Robert Morrison breaks that down exquisitely here.
Coming off a Super Bowl loss with a roster buoyed by several free agent signings, this offseason provides a different flavor than seasons past. The last few years, the Niners have thrown money at problems, and lots of it. Their few low-money gambles have resulted in mixed results. Cornerback Jason Verrett re-injured himself and was unable to provide any positive value, but offensive lineman Daniel Brunskill showed himself to be a potential building block for the line’s future. Now, the 49ers will almost exclusively be working in the low-end gamble section of the market.
That’s where tight end Jordan Reed comes in the picture.
Released by the Washington Redskins to clear over $8.5 million off their books, Reed finally passed concussion protocol, dealing with an injury that had robbed him of his 2019 season. Injuries have been a common thread with Reed; he has never played an entire season in his career.
That’s why there’s no reason for the 49ers to consider a long-term, high-money contract with him. But on a one-year prove it deal? It becomes a far more appetizing proposition.
Following the retirement of Garrett Celek, the Niners are looking at a free tight end spot. The replacement, as it stands right now, would be Daniel Helm, who profiles as a dual fullback/tight end and was on the 49ers practice squad for the majority of the season.
The backup tight end, Ross Dwelley, made his talents quite known as he filled in admirably for fullback Kyle Juszczyk during the 2019 season. Dwelley is a solid No. 2 behind unquestioned superstar George Kittle. But Jordan Reed provides another spice to the 49ers offense, one they could definitely take advantage of.
The 49ers ran around 34 percent of their offensive plays with at least two tight ends on the field, with 13 percent of them having two tight ends, plus Jusczcyk. That’s a third of their offense where a good second tight end is necessary. In some circumstances, the blocking of Dwelley mixed in with some receiving ability would be a plus.
But head coach Kyle Shanahan prides his offense on flexibility, and here’s where Jordan Reed could help. With his build, Reed essentially profiles as a wide receiver masquerading as a tight end, not unlike Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who had a fantastic season in Oakland with the Raiders. That provides coach Shanahan the opportunity to transition from 12 personnel (two tight ends) to 11 (one tight end) without changing players.
Finally, the cost of Reed is essentially a roster spot. For the 49ers, who are relatively secure at most positions, that’s not a horrible cost at all.
The 49ers are entering a new mode of transaction with their roster. Signing Jordan Reed is a move a team in this situation now considers. Buy low, sell high.