Following a breakout third season in 2018, Jarran Reed looked to be in position to land a long-term, big-money contract. With just a year remaining on his rookie deal, Reed had proven to be one of the sport’s hottest commodities: a three-down defensive tackle who could disrupt and produce as a pass rusher from the interior. Reed finished sixth in pressure rate and tied for fourth in sacks among defensive tackles in 2018, as he rounded out his game in time to be eligible for an extension and just a year away from the open market.
Then, 2019 happened.
In late July, just before the start of training camp, Reed was suspended six games by the NFL for a violation of the personal conduct policy, following an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident in 2017. The start to Reed’s contract year took a big hit, both because of the suspension itself and that the defensive tackle was set to miss nearly 40 percent of the season.
Upon returning from suspension, Reed looked sluggish, rusty and, most harmful to his future contract, completely one-dimensional. The disruptive pass rusher the Seahawks enjoyed in 2018 was nowhere to be found. Despite immediately re-entering the starting lineup and topping 80 percent of defensive snaps, Reed was making his impact solely against the run. While he was moving gap-to-gap, shedding blocks and holding up at the point of attack as well as he always had both at Alabama and prior to his suspension in Seattle, he was a non-factor against the pass.
In his fourth game back from suspension, however, against the 49ers, Reed looked all the way back, totaling a sack and a half, a pair of QB hits and several more pressures as he impacted the game in both areas. His full sack, which led to a Jadeveon Clowney touchdown, was a perfect representation of how he won in 2018: hands and feet working in sync to disengage, the short-area quickness to rush through a gap over from him, and relentless effort.
That was as good as it got for Reed in 2019 (and the entire defensive line, really), as he added just another half-sack over the rest of the season and never meshed with Clowney the way he had with Frank Clark. Not only was Reed’s traditional production down, but so too were pass rush rates (which wouldn’t have been impacted by games missed). He registered pressures, hurries and hits at rates lower than both 2018 and ‘17.
Despite Reed’s suspension and lowly 2019, the expectation was still that he would get paid well—certainly topping the $8 million Sheldon Richardson got as a prove-it deal upon his departure from the Seahawks. However, he was always likely to fall short of the upper-echelon at his position, where players like Grady Jarrett, Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox (and now DeForest Buckner) top $15 million annually.
Ultimately, Reed fell in between a short prove-it deal and top of his position pay, receiving a two-year deal worth $23 million. Reed’s annual average of $11.5 million puts him eighth among 4-3 defensive tackles, just below the aforementioned Richardson. And that’s what surely made it an appealing deal for Reed and his team. On a one-year deal with the Vikings, Richardson marginally improved his pressure and sack numbers (while continuing to be a strong run defender and staying out of trouble) and was rewarded with $37 million over three years.
Should Reed maintain his play against the run and stay clean off the field, he will re-enter free agency as the salary cap rises in 2022, in line to approach the $15 million APY threshold at the top of his position. The key, however, will be getting back on the path he was on in the two seasons prior to 2019. Even in 2017, when Reed had just 1.5 sacks, his pressure rate (7.4) was in line with interior rushers who were in the 5-8 sack range. Both sides of this agreement are betting on 2018 not having been an anomaly, and there’s reason to believe that.
For Seattle, that’s what their bet on Reed comes down to. As proven in 2018, when Reed and Clark combined to form a top-half of the league pass rush duo, Reed can be a key piece of a good Seahawks pass rush unit. It didn’t work in 2019—not helped by playing less than half a season together—but Clowney and Reed can pair just as well as Clark and Reed did, especially if further reinforcements are added.
Retaining Reed provides Seattle with their secondary or 1B pass rusher, to go with their main threat—whoever that may be entering the 2020 season. For Reed, it gives him continuity in a place he has had success, and the chance to still land the payday he was previously in position for.