SANTA CLARA — Kyle Shanahan is straightforward when he is asked about Eric Reid. The long-time 49ers safety was not re-signed after the 2017 season because the coaching staff is invested in molding Jaquiski Tartt as the starting strong safety of the foreseeable future. Shanahan feels Reid is too talented to accept a backup role, which is what he would inherit if the 49ers were to sign him to a one-year minimum deal.
“If any really good player wants to come in here on a minimum deal, and have a good player be a backup, that would be unbelievable,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “I don’t think that’s what Eric wants. The reason we decided to not go in that direction is because we made a tough decision, but we had to do it. We went with Tartt.”
Reid, 26, played all five of his career seasons in San Francisco. He was a Pro Bowler his rookie year after compiling four interceptions and 12 passes defended in 2013. He was a mainstay in the starting lineup for the following four years. Last season, a knee injury sidelined him from Week 3 through Week 5, and Tartt amassed 21 tackles during that span in Reid’s place. Reid later returned, then tore his biceps in Week 11 to sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Reid has not been signed ever since he became a free agent after the 2017 season, despite the general consensus that he is, at the minimum, a starting-caliber safety in the NFL. The free agent safety market was uncommonly slow this year, but the common feeling is that Reid has not been signed for his outspokenness on social issues.
He is one of the seminal figures for players protesting racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling for the national anthem, an idea Reid and Colin Kaepernick started during the 2016 preseason. The movement has since gained major traction throughout the NFL, particularly in the 2017 season.
Back in April, Reid met with the Cincinnati Bengals, seemingly a positive first step as he sought new teams. But owner Mike Brown ‘almost exclusively’ centered the conversation around Reid’s protesting, with Brown reportedly saying he would ‘prohibit it.’ Reid wasn’t prepared to commit on the spot.
“It just sucks, you know?” linebacker Eli Harold said Tuesday. “He is a heck of a ballplayer. It hurts me to see what he is going through.”
In early May, Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, according to ESPN. Kaepernick did the same last October. According to Sports Illustrated, collusion occurs when “two or more teams or the league and at least one team join to deprive a player of a contractually earned right.”
There have not been additional reported teams that have expressed serious interest in Reid. The 49ers have not because they feel a potential backup role would not intrigue him.
“It would be great if we could have him in that role,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think he would be that interested in it.”