The 49ers executed a low-risk, high-reward move by signing veteran tight end Jordan Reed, who if healthy, can spark the Niners offense in 2020.
Glad we got that out of the way.
In case you missed it, the Niners’ numerous efforts to add another tight end to pair with Kittle came to a head on Monday with the addition of former Washington veteran Jordan Reed, who joined the league in Round 3 of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida, on a one-year deal as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Reed’s offensive coordinator that first season? None other than San Francisco’s head coach, Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan got the most out of Kittle during his rookie 2017 campaign. Similarly, Reed’s impact back in 2013 was awfully similar, the latter’s yardage totals coming just 71 yards shy of Kittle’s:
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Reed’s on-field prowess, notably those 2015 and 2016, spark the idea the 49ers could have one of the most dynamic tight end pairings in the league this season. And considering the Niners have some noticeable shortages at wide receiver, adding another dynamic playmaker at this spot helps alleviate some of those concerns.
Yet it’s no secret Reed is injury prone. Reed has suffered a total of seven known concussions at the NFL ranks, including one which forced him to miss all of 2019. There were also three suffered at the college level, too.
This is a noticeable setback and one of the reasons why Reed could never pan out to desired expectations in San Francisco.
Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series takes a deeper look.
Why Jordan Reed improves with 49ers in 2020
There’s little questioning Reed’s on-field impact when healthy. While nowhere near as potent as Kittle, Reed is still a good blocker in both the run game and in pass protection. He’s certainly an upgrade over the Niners’ other options in this field, including 2020 rookie Charlie Woerner when one factors in Reed’s pass-catching abilities.
But what makes Reed potentially more dangerous for San Francisco is his ability with the ball in his hands, and one needs to look no further than his placement at No. 65 of top 100 NFL players entering 2017:
This ability to make defenders miss while picking up yards after the catch is reminiscent of Kittle’s best attributes, too.
And few teams are properly equipped to defend against offenses boasting weapons like this.
Why Jordan Reed flames out with 49ers in 2020
The injury history is the proverbial elephant in the room here.
Reed’s seven NFL-level concussions are concerning, and one can fairly ask the question whether or not he should even be playing football at this stage in his career. Additionally, hamstring and ankle injuries hampered his 2014 campaign, and another hamstring setback would prematurely end his 2017 efforts, too.
Missing all of 2019 could ultimately allow Reed to refresh and heal. But there’s just as equal a possibility he’s turning into one of those “what could have been?” players if his health hadn’t been a factor.
Especially considering he just turned 30 years old.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster, projected role
Considering the Niners inked Reed to an incentive-laden deal, it’s about as low-risk, high-reward a move as possible for San Francisco.
That’s the good part, as the 49ers don’t exactly have much to lose if Reed pans out. He’s nowhere guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster right out of the gate. But if he rekindles his understanding of Shanahan’s offense and stays healthy in training camp, he has as good a chance as anyone else on the bubble.
Reed, essentially by default, could emerge as the No. 2 complementary option to Kittle this season. Woerner wasn’t a receiving threat in college as is likely to be no more than an extra blocker his rookie year, while fellow tight end Ross Dwelley lacks the blocking prowess and offers little by the way of extra yards after the catch.
Because of this, Reed is easily the best No. 2 option to support Kittle.
Kittle is likely to be doubled a lot in coverage this season, usually by other teams’ best coverage linebackers and safeties. As such, Reed could see plenty of one-on-one matchups against favorable oppositions, resulting in a potential bounce-back year.
If he stays healthy, of course.