Safety Eric Reid is back in the NFL after being unemployed since March.
The former 49er on Thursday inked a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers despite joining Colin Kaepernick in filing a grievance against the NFL alleging owners colluded to keep them out of the league after they began protesting racial discrimination and police brutality during the national anthem in 2016.
Kaepernick remains unsigned, but has been back in the news after recently landing an endorsement deal with Nike, which made him the face of a popular new ad campaign. The Panthers are the second known team to show interest in Reid. He had a workout with the Bengals during the offseason that was reportedly scuttled when Cincinnati owner Mike Brown asked Reid about whether or not he planned to continue his protest in 2018.
President Donald Trump has criticized NFL players for protesting during the anthem with little pushback from NFL owners. However, Panthers owner David Tepper has been outspoken against Trump, making it unsurprising Carolina would be the team to bring Reid back into the NFL.
“Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career,” general manager Marty Hurney wrote in a statement. “After we put (safety) Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron (Rivera) and I discussed our options, and Eric was at the top of our list. He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability.”
The 49ers elected not to bring back Reid following the conclusion of his rookie contract. He was a first-round draft pick in 2013 and started 69 games over five seasons. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He played both free and strong safety positions with San Francisco, and also spent time as a linebacker in passing downs last season.
San Francisco made Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert their starters at safety and indicated they were open to bringing Reid back when he hit free agency, but didn’t expect he’d join the team as a backup. The Panthers plan on making Reid a starter due to injuries in their secondary.
“If any really good player wants to come in here on a minimum deal and have a good player to be a backup, that’d be unbelievable. I don’t think that’s what Eric wants,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said in August. “I told you the reason we decided to go that direction is because we made a tough decision, but we had to do it. We went with Tartt. We thought that was the right way to go. You can’t give a lot of money to backups, and that’s what he would be if he came here.
“But, I like Eric. Eric is a good player, he’s a good person. That’d be great if we could add him to that role. I don’t think he would be that interested in it.”
Colbert (hip) and Tartt (shoulder) have both missed practice this week and are uncertain to play Sunday against the Chargers. The 49ers could end up starting rookie fifth-round pick D.J. Reed at free safety and Antone Exum Jr. at strong safety, after he made the start last week against Kansas City in an 11-point defeat.