The Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly linked to Justin Reid in free agency

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Which positions should the Philadelphia Eagles address in free agency?

This question, a relatively simple one with lasting implications, is surely kicking around the NovaCare Center as we speak, as, with the 2022 NFL Combine officially in the books, the entire league will be turning their attention to free agency, which officially opens up on March 16th at 4 pm EST.

Could the Eagles go all-in and sign away one of the best wide receivers on the market? Sure, they did so in 2017 when Howie Roseman gave Alshon Jeffery a one-year, $17 million deal, and that turned out pretty darn well. Or how about an elite defensive end like Haason Reddick, Za’Darius Smith, or DeMarcus Lawrence who, rumor has it, might be on the outs in Dallas after refusing a payout? That’s possible too, especially since the Eagles haven’t had a consistent double-digit sacker off the edge since Trent Cole.

Well, if the intel of SI’s John McMullen proves correct, the name to watch for the Philadelphia Eagles is none other than safety Justin Reid, who just so happens to be one of the more exciting options on the market this year.

The Philadelphia Eagles could unlock Justin Reid’s blue-chip talent.

Financially speaking, safety is one of the least valued positions in the NFL.

Now sure, there are a few players who will eat very well, with Jamal Adams, Harrison Smith, and Justin Simmons all making over $15 million per year in AAV, but when you consider that every team across the NFL starts two safeties, the position has by far the fewest 10-figure per season players of any spot on the defense at only 12 according to Spotrac.

Outside of fullback, kicker, punter, and maybe long snapper, that’s the lowest mark in the NFL, period.

For $6 million or less, teams like the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Miami Dolphins have quality starters like Chuck Clark, Vonn Bell, and our old pal Eric Rowe, who had really caught on as a starting strong safety.

To his credit, Howie Roseman has never been afraid to invest heavily in the safety position, with both Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod earning top-10 paying contracts in 2014 and 2016 respectively, but since the former left town for New Orleans, the team has opted to rely on one-year stopgaps, with Jalen Mills starting in 2020, and Anthony Harris taking over the spot in 2021.

If John McMullen is correct, Roseman could be looking to dip his toe back into the deep end of the safety market and secure a blue chip-level talent at half the price of a similarly-skilled wide receiver or edge rusher.

Justin Reid fits that bill.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, Reid is an elite-level athlete who parlayed three quality seasons at Stanford and a fantastic showing at the 2018 combine into a third-round selection by the Houston Texans 68th overall. Early in his career, Reid looked like an absolute star. Largely deployed as a free safety, Reid used his 4.4 speed, great instincts, and uncanny ability to effortlessly change directions on a dime to give opposing quarterbacks nightmares, recording 15 passes defensed, five picks, and a defensive touchdown over his first two seasons in Jalen Hurts’ hometown.

But as the Texans’ on-field success started to dip, so did Reid’s efficiency stats, with the 25-year-old setting new career lows in AV and PFF defensive grade with each passing season since his rookie year. While Reid never became unplayable, far from it actually, his stock took a dip during his contract year, many, including Mike Bullock of Battle Red Blog, still expect Reid to earn a contract in the $10 million range, which feels slightly too rich for me, but not by much.

If the Eagles can swoop in and secure Reid on a four-year deal worth $36-40 million, it could spell a big-time upgrade both over what Rodney McLeod put on tape in 2021 and provide the team with a long-term player to build around both now and moving forward. Reid looked like one of the NFL’s best young safeties in 2018/2019, and if he can return to that level, it’ll provide the Eagles with a seriously talented player who can play single high, two-high, and even drop down into the slot from time to time in Jonathan Gannon’s veritable scheme.

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Could the rumors around the Philadelphia Eagles’ interest in Justin Reid turn out to be more smoke than fire? You bet, this sort of chatter happens all of the time, and more often than not, nothing comes out of it but personally, I’d like to see this particular pairing come to fruition. Despite Houston’s struggles, Reid has remained an intriguing player who could come at a minor discount due to the down play of the Texans’ entire defensive unit, and could elevate Jonathan Gannon’s defense with the sort of playmaking safety that was sorely missing in 2022. For my money – or, in this case, Howie Roseman’s money – Reid is an ideal free agent addition at an undervalued position who could punch well above his weight class.