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He’s our unquestioned best defensive tackle on the roster. He’s just realizing his potential as an all-purpose force in the middle, both stopping the run and rushing the passer. Indeed, he’s almost certainly the best interior pass rush threat we have on this team. He’s coming off of a 10.5-sack season. His name is Jarran Reed.
In his career to date, Reed has exceeded my expectations. Taken in the second round out of Alabama in 2016, I seem to remember him being touted as one of the (if not THE) best nose tackles in that draft. There were rumblings of potential to be mined in the realm of pass rush, but really if he’d just turned into a run-stuffer that we could plug into the middle of our line from Day 1, that was probably the extent of my expectations. Maybe he averages 1.0 sacks per year, but nothing crazy; he’s just there to take up blockers and create openings for our more athletic ends around him.
And, through his first two seasons, he more or less met expectations. He played in 15 games each year, generating 1.5 sacks apiece. I would argue that any lagging in our run defense was more due to the players around him not quite being as good as they’d been before he got here (and, of course, injuries eating into our depth).
Then, in 2018, Reed exploded with the aforementioned 10.5 sacks. Coming from a nose tackle, that’s something that’ll make you sit up and take notice! He played in all 16 games, and generated at least 0.5 sacks in 8 of them (he had 2 sacks each in 3 games).
You could argue that’s a little flukey, and I guess we’ll see. I understand the reasoning (and I certainly understand why people would have reservations about extending him now, when he’s at the height of his value): he wasn’t the same player he was his first two years in the league. So, who is the real Jarran Reed?
My fear is that Reed comes back with another 10+ sack season which will make him impossible to extend. At that point, we’ll only have the Franchise Tag to threaten him with, and as we saw from Frank Clark, that’s not the deterrent it once was. Players are smarter today (for the most part; I’ve got my eyes on you, Malik McDowell), they understand the risk in playing this game, and their windows being ridiculously short. As long as you don’t live your life in fear (and put money into a sweet insurance policy), playing up to and through the Tag can reap you insane financial rewards.
Of course, my fear is the same fear most bad GMs have. It’s why they throw tons of cash on middle-of-the-road players at the height of their value, chasing the dragon that can’t possibly be caught. 2018 might be the very best year of Reed’s career (like 2004 was for Adrian Beltre … right before the Mariners signed him to a huge contract and never saw him come close to approaching those offensive numbers ever again in Seattle). But, on the flipside, we all lauded the Seahawks’ front office for extending Tyler Lockett when they did. When he had more injury concerns at the time and never really played near the top of the market at his position. Who’s to say Reed couldn’t even IMPROVE on what he did in 2018? If he did, extending him now would be real next-level GM’ing.
I’m like most of you, I just want Reed to be around for the next few years under a reasonable contract. I’m not looking to low-ball him, but I also don’t really want the Seahawks to be suckers. If the team is willing to buy out the final year of his rookie deal, they should get somewhat of a discount. Also, if we do let him play out his contract, and let’s say there’s some regression that comes with it (I’m in the camp that doubts he’s a double-digit-per-year sack guy, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable); even if he finishes 2019 with somewhere around 5-6 sacks, that’s still pretty good for an interior lineman (I mean, shit, we still talk about Clinton McDonald’s 5.5 sacks in 2013 like he was fucking Reggie White in his prime). And he’s ALWAYS going to have that 10.5-sack season to fall back on in negotiations (this time, with the entire league, barring a Franchise Tag). Some team, if it isn’t the Seahawks, will look at those 10.5 sacks and see the potential for a repeat.
Bottom line is he’ll get his money. The Franchise Tag value for a defensive tackle in 2019 is a little over $15 million. That’ll almost certainly go up in 2020, maybe the $16-17 million range. So, even if, as I said, he gets 5-6 sacks, he’s probably going to be worth Tagging, which means it’s only a matter of time before he’s getting a contract at or very close to the top of the market (obviously not Aaron Donald money, but in that next tier down). So, just get it done now. Because I ultimately don’t see the Seahawks being in a position to draft anyone who’s any better (and whoever that replacement might be figures to be considerably worse).
As for the 2019 season, Reed is obviously important for the pass rush factor. We have no idea where it’s going to be coming from, but of anyone currently on the roster, he’s the safest bet. We don’t know about the rookie from this year, or the rookies from last year, or the free agents we brought in; but we know what we’ve got in Reed. Probably. 5-6 sacks would be fine. 10 or more would be better. The better he does, the better this line will look, and the better this defense will perform as a whole. If he truly busts out as one of the best D-Tackles in the game, this team could be really special. If he regresses (as he probably will), then obviously there’s a trickle-down effect that hurts everyone else and the team as a whole.