San Francisco 49ers

Eric Reid's free-agent market is quiet. He says he knows why.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara on Sept. 12, 2016.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara on Sept. 12, 2016. The Associated Press

One of the excuses for why Colin Kaepernick has been out of the NFL for more than a year now is that he's a poor scheme fit for many teams.

The argument, which usually has come in the form of an anonymous quote from a team executive, is that Kaepernick is a running quarterback and that teams prefer their passers to be savvy inside the pocket. It's a flimsy contention for several reasons, including the fact that the league last year was full of far less successful quarterbacks who can run, including one-time Kaepernick backups Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson.

The purpose of raising it here, however, is this: Teams don't have that excuse to lean on when it comes to Kaepernick's friend and former teammate, safety Eric Reid, whose market has been quiet since free agency began this week.

Reid, a former first-round pick, has played in four different defensive schemes in San Francisco. He's played free safety and strong safety. And last year when the 49ers were having depth issues at the position, he even played some inside linebacker.

Reid took to Twitter this week to address what he called "false narratives" about him and free agency.

“The notion that I can be a great signing for your team for cheap, not because of my skill set but because I’ve protested systemic oppression, is ludicrous," he wrote. “If you think (it) is, then your mindset is part of the problem too.”

Reid, 26, knelt during the national anthem in 2016 and 2017 to call attention to social justice issues, including police brutality in minority communities.

He started doing so in the 2016 preseason finale after Kaepernick was seen sitting amid the water coolers during the anthem ceremony of the previous game. Reid helped convince Kaepernick to change his stance to one in which he was kneeling amid his teammates – not sitting alone behind them.

In that way, he's been like the dad of the locker room. He has served as the team's union representative in recent years. When Rashard Robinson threw his helmet and began stomping around the sideline during an ugly game against the Cowboys this past season, it was Reid who put his arm around the young cornerback, walked him away from the dispute and calmed him down.

Before the season ended, Reid said he was well aware that his free-agent market could be muted by the way teams respond to the protest. The 49ers expect him to sign elsewhere because with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt earmarked for the starting safety roles in 2018, Reid knows he'd begin the offseason in a backup position.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘concerned.’ I’d say I understand that that’s a possibility,” he said on Dec. 29 about the potential for a soft market. “And I’m completely fine with that. The things that I’ve done, I stand by. And I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said I’m fine with whatever outcome comes because of that.”

It must be noted that while some safeties – Kurt Coleman, who joined the Saints, for example have signed free-agent deals, the most prominent ones remain available. That includes former Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas, whom the Seahawks are reportedly shopping for a trade. The position isn't in as high a demand as others such as cornerback and pass rusher.

But while there's been plenty of buzz about those players, Reid's market has been quiet. And he says he knows why.

“GMs aren’t the hold up broski,” he wrote in response to a Twitter comment. “It’s ownership. People who know football know who can play. People who know me, know my character.”

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