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Jarran Reed got bad news on Monday, but it probably won’t hurt him long term

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We know that the Seattle Seahawks will be facing questions on the defense for the first six games of the season without Jarran Reed, but what about after the rest of the year? Reed has been one of the biggest topics of conversation for Seahawks fans in 2019 not because we were aware of an impending six-game ban or appeal but due to Reed’s upcoming free agency and an extension.

An extension looks unlikely any time soon. How will Seattle move forward with Reed?

One thing that works in Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s favor here is that Reed’s interaction with police that ultimately led us here happened two and a half years ago. That means that the Seahawks have had like 30 months to come up with a contingency plan — and it’s fair to say now that Carroll and Schneider’s moves this year indicate that they were ready. Not because they are especially deep at defensive tackle (they aren’t) but they did add six notable defensive linemen — Demarcus Christmas, Al Woods, Jamie Meder, Cassius Marsh, L.J. Collier, and Ziggy Ansah — while knocking on the doors of guys like Ahtyba Rubin.

The team let Shamar Stephen walk and traded Frank Clark, but those are the only two real losses; the loss of Clark feels antithetical to a Reed suspension because you want to have as much talent on the defensive line as possible, but you don’t turn down a first and second round pick and pay a player $105 million because you’re going to be without a defensive tackle for six games. And it just may not feel like a good idea to extend Frank Clark to a deal like that months before one of his teammates is suspended six games for an incident related to domestic violence.

What does this all mean for Reed’s own free agency in 2020?

The suspension might seem to indicate that Reed will be easier to re-sign to a new contract, but I’m not sure that this works in Seattle’s favor. Without this suspension, Reed may have been looking at an elite-level contract for a defensive tackle: as noted last week, Grady Jarrett of the Atlanta Falcons signed a four-year, $68 million deal and it’s not hard to envision Reed topping that.

Or at least, it wasn’t.

The Seahawks could negotiate with Reed during the season to maybe come to an agreement that gives him security, an opportunity, and alleviates some financial obligations on the part of the team. But my immediate thought on that idea is that Reed should never and probably would never accept it. The fact is that Reed could play 10 games and by the end of the year, most have forgotten that he was ever suspended.

If that becomes the case, then Reed shouldn’t expect anything less than a franchise tag, which would be around $16 million for 2020. And I still don’t think I’d expect less than a franchise tag.

While with the Chicago Bears in 2016, Alshon Jeffery was suspended four games for violating the league’s PED policy. He returned, played 12 games, had 52 catches for 821 yards, and became a free agent. In this case, Jeffery’s suspension did come back to bite him because the best bet on himself he found was a one-year, $14 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In this case, you can see that the suspension did hurt Jeffery, on top of some other issues, but he still got a franchise tag-type of deal. This also meant that the Bears didn’t get the same type of compensatory credit that they would have gotten had Jeffery signed a five-year, $66 million contract instead. And that’s basically what Jeffery ended up signing:

After proving to be quite valuable in Philly’s offense and that he wasn’t a lesser player post-PEDs, the Eagles gave him a four-year, $52 million extension.

Jeffery was fine. The Eagles were fine. But the Bears wound up with nothing. It’s not exactly a rosy picture for Seattle’s forecast but the two situations are not exactly the same. Reed’s suspension is for something that most humans consider to be a worse offense — and this has nothing to do with the specific details in his case, only with the types of suspensions, so we don’t need to talk about the details right now, just the types of suspensions and Reed’s is worse.

So many players have been hit with PED suspensions that we kind of just gloss it over and move on. Julian Edelman’s doing fine, right?

There’s another comparison that’s much closer to Reed’s situation but it hasn’t concluded yet as far as the next contract goes. In 2017, Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension for an incident related to domestic violence. In both cases, the NFL took a long time to make a decision and to eventually land on a six-game ban after appeal. In both cases, there weren’t any charges pressed against the player.

Elliott eventually served his suspension and when he returned for a full campaign in 2018, he led the NFL in rushing yards and touches. The only debates raging around Elliott’s contract situation with the Dallas Cowboys is whether or not running backs matter. There must be internal discussions regarding the risk of signing Elliott and seeing another incident or suspension, but externally the world seems to have moved on. This must be somewhat related to the fact that there is no video evidence against Elliott like there has been for some other players around the league, and most fans are completely unaware of what the allegations actually were at the time. I imagine the same will happen for Reed since there’s no video and no charges.

So I imagine that the world will move on for Jarran Reed too.

At this point, Seattle’s plan might just be for Reed to serve his suspension and to observe the snaps going to his replacements, hoping for reasons to be optimistic about a future with Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson in the middle. If the Seahawks never planned to extend Reed, then at least they get an early preview of a Reed-less line, which is the closest thing I can find to a silver lining when you lose your best pass rusher.

Then it’s just watching how Reed plays. Which doesn’t really change the expectation for 2019 at all, right?

All most have been saying for the whole year before today was that the team should wait and see how Reed plays given that his 10.5-sack season was such an outlier from his first two years. If in that 10 games Reed puts up five sacks, then that likely makes him an attractive free agent, and Seattle could either extend him, tag him, or let him walk and potentially receive a good compensatory draft pick. Just like they would have before.

If in that 10 games Reed struggles, then it could be the push that gives the Seahawks an opportunity to re-sign him to a one-year deal to improve his stock or a reason to not worry that much if he leaves.

After going through the possibilities, I don’t think this suspension changes much for Reed’s future compensation. The information about his incident goes back over two years and as far as we know, there aren’t other incidents in that time. There will be no shortage of teams vying for his services if Reed has 5+ sacks next season. The biggest impact here will be on the first six games and without Reed, the Seahawks could be in competition for worst defensive line in the league.

Last year, they opened with Clark, Reed, Tom Johnson, and Jefferson. Stephen replaced Johnson in Week 2, but Clark and Reed went on to finish with 23.5 sacks.

Now that Reed is suspended and Ansah is probable to miss the start of the season, a Week 1 defensive line could feature L.J. Collier, Ford, Woods or Meder or Rubin, and perhaps Marsh or Jacob Martin or Rasheem Green. Maybe after six games we’re so excited about Collier and Ford and Martin that we’re not even thinking about Reed, but going into the season it will be one of the least-experienced, least-expensive, and least-intimidating defensive lines in the NFL.

The Seahawks were already in a position for 2019 to observe which young players are long-term pieces of the franchise and which ones aren’t. Reed’s absence from September 8-October 13 increases those opportunities for players looking to hang on long-term and decreases Seattle’s talent up front, but ultimately may not change much beyond that.