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History suggests that Jarran Reed will be a consistent pass rushing threat

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

I know you’re sick of hearing me talk about the Seaside Joe newsletter, but I wanted to share Tuesday’s edition because I felt it had relevance to another Field Gulls post this week and because I’m writing my ass off for football in July so I might as well share as much as possible. Everything after this paragraph is straight from the newsletter up until the point where I write, “end of newsletter” and then I will add some more thoughts.

On Monday, our own Tyler Alsin did his write-up on previewing the defensive line and he of course highlighted Jarran Reed as the new veteran leader of that group. Reed is going into his fourth season and is coming off of a 10.5-sack campaign after posting back-to-back 1.5-sack seasons to open his career.

Despite most people being high on Reed’s potential prior to 2018, the 10.5 sacks was a surprise because it was unclear if he’d ever develop his pass rush to be more than three or four in a given year but Reed was relentless, posting two sacks each against the Cowboys, Cardinals, and 49ers. Reed posted one sack in four other games (including games against Arizona and San Francisco, giving him three sacks apiece against each of those clubs) and a .5 sack against the Packers. That leaves half the season in which Reed recorded a sack -- including six against the NFC West -- and half the season in which he did not, plus a playoff game against Dallas when he had zero sacks.

What’s the good and the bad there?

The good is that I think posting a sack in half of your games in a given year is exceptional, this is not a Adrian Clayborn situation, posting six sacks in a single game and finishing with nine on the year.

Since 2002, 17 different defensive tackles have posted at least nine sacks in a season, but just three of those players appear multiple times: Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, and Roderick Coleman. That means 14 players have not repeated, but there are some important caveats:

Reed, Denico Autry, DeForest Buckner, and Fletcher Cox just appeared on the list for the first time. We know Cox is an elite defensive tackle while Buckner is even more likely than Reed to be a consistent threat as a pass rusher. Why? It’s not only draft pedigree, Buckner has been a productive pass rusher during all three of his seasons. He had nine sacks and 40 QB hits over his first two seasons compared to three and 12 for Reed. Don’t get mad at me for saying a division rival’s player might be better in this one area, I’m just using objective reasoning.

There are also some players on there who were at the backside of their careers around 2002, such as Kevin Williams and Warran Sapp.

Almost every defensive tackle on this list has been an especial defensive tackle, which is a great sign for Reed, his future, and whichever team decides to give him $15 million per year. Well, I’m not so sure if that last bit will be a good thing, bad thing, or neutral, but I do expect Reed to continue to be productive. Just how productive is the question.

In Tyler’s post, the top comment from user Nshima posits that “6-8 sacks” from Reed is a reasonable expectation. Is it? Well, unless he’s Donald or Atkins, we can probably write off more seasons of him above 9 sacks. That’s also why now would be the absolute worst time to extend Reed. He’s likely had his career-best season as a pass rusher, so I think smart teams would generally try to avoid signing any player after a career-year. However, I do think that 6 sacks is a fair starting point.

Kawann Short followed his 11-sack season with 6-7 sacks over each of the next two years. Jurrell Casey followed his 10-sack season with a pretty consistent average of six sacks over each of the next five years. Darnell Dockett went from his 9-sack season to putting up 5/year over the next three seasons.

Added up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reed consistently put up 4-7 sacks with great run defense and that alone will probably make him worth $15 million to some team. Seattle has the money to do it, but they don’t seem super motivated to hand out those elite contracts to anyone other than Russell Wilson. After all, Bobby Wagner also remains a pending 2020 free agent. For the Seahawks, Wagner represents a better guarantee over the next three years and he’s not so clearly coming off of a career-year, so he may be extended first and then the Seahawks can see what 2019 holds for Reed, potentially bringing down his contract demands in 2020.

Or, like Frank Clark, he puts up a season that almost guarantees he won’t return. In that case, perhaps Seattle can steal another first round pick.

end of newsletter

A few notes:

  • I wrote about how many total games Reed had at least one sack in... To follow-up on that, Chris Jones and JJ Watt tied for the most games (11) with at least one sack, followed by Frank Clark and six other players with 10 games. Reed had seven games, the eighth being a .5 sack game. Only three defensive tackles — Jones, Donald, Buckner — had more total games with at least one sack.
  • On contractual considerations: Grady Jarrett is making $15.2 million on the franchise tag. A tag for next year will be more than that. Short has a $16.1 million APY based on a deal signed in 2017, Atkins has a $16.3 million figure for a deal signed last August, and Cox is still making $17.1 million per year for a deal signed in 2016. Donald makes $22 million per year but plays in a 3-4 (slightly different expectations) and is Aaron Donald. He doesn’t serve as a baseline for anyone short of a first ballot Hall of Famer like him. If Reed doesn’t sign an extension and he has another 9+ sack season, I expect him to at least get the franchise tag and then to seek a deal worth at least $17 million per season. If Reed reverts back to his 2016-17 production, we could maybe look to someone like Dontari Poe, which may put Reed around $10-12 million APY. This is the argument that I assume Seattle and Reed would be having right now as they decide how far into the middle they’re willing to compromise. Unless Reed, like Clark, just wants to bet on himself.
  • My conclusion on Reed is that he could be a consistent top-5 defensive tackle over the next three years (I don’t like projecting much beyond that) but I have serious reservations about an extension. Mainly because he wasn’t a productive pass rusher over his first two seasons, he was old for a draftee, and he’d be cashing in at the best possible time for him. We don’t know yet if Reed’s year three jump in sacks was the natural conclusion to two years of hard work or just a flukey season. As noted with Buckner, there’s a lot more reason to expect him to have 20 QB hits and 7 sacks next year. Secondly, Reed was a 24-year-old rookie which will make him 28 in 2020. You have to admit that feels a lot differently than a 21-year-old rookie who puts up 10.5 sacks when he’s 23 and hits free agency at 24. Finally, this is the moment when Reed’s stock could be at his highest. I don’t trade on Wall Street, but “buying a stock at its absolute highest” doesn’t feel like how you do money??? Extend Wagner, hold the tag for Reed.

What do you think?