Two birds in the hand are always better than one in the bush.
Defensive tackle Jarran Reed apparently has learned this lesson the hard way, swapping $8.5 million in compensation that the Seahawks apparently were ready to guarantee as part of a restructuring for a $5 million deal (that can be worth “up to $7 million” based on undisclosed, so far, factors) with the Chiefs.
Reed reportedly responded to the request for a restructuring with a demand for a long-term deal. That prompted a failed effort to trade Reed (which should have been a sign as to where this was heading) before the decision to cut him.
Chiefs fans are applauding and defending the move, because why wouldn’t they? It helps their team to get a competent defensive tackle to pair with Chris Jones, and they got Reed for $3.5 million less than he was due to make in Seattle.
But let’s not call this a good move for Reed. Yes, he’s gone from a team that hasn’t been past the divisional round since 2014 to a team that has qualified for three straight AFC Championships and the last two Super Bowls. (Few players would say it’s worth $3.5 million for a roll of the dice to win a championship.)
Sure, Reed will see more favorable matchups, with Jones attracting more attention than Reed. That said, does anyone think other teams won’t factor that in when putting a value on Reed next year, when he becomes a free agent? If fans realize that Reed’s play will benefit from being next to Jones in 2021, pro personnel directors throughout the league won’t conclude that Reed suddenly has become Aaron Donald.
Reed was heading to the market either way in 2022. Now, he has a $3.5 million gap (if the extra $2 million is easily earned, those terms would have been leaked) heading into free agency, along with the reality that he went from a team in a state with no income tax to one with a 5.4-percent rate on the highest earners.
Then there’s the notion that the salary cap will explode next year and he’ll make it all back, and more. Beyond the fact that he would have been headed to the open market either way in 2022, an explosion of the cap in 2022 is unlikely. Last year, the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to spread the massive pandemic losses ($4 billion in all) over three years. Even with new TV deals (which don’t fully kick in until 2023, but against which the league and union can borrow in 2022) and full stadiums in 2021, it would be a surprise if the next cap meets or exceeds the $198.2 million figure from 2020.
The real question on this one is whether Reed knew when he turned down the $8.5 million in Seattle that he wouldn’t get that amount on the open market. For any players faced with that type of decision, it’s important for their agents to gauge the market elsewhere before drawing a line in the sand.
If Reed didn’t know, it means that insufficient efforts were made to find out. If he did know, it means that insufficient efforts were made to get him to realize he should have stayed put, made $8.5 million, and become a free agent in 2022.