Despite Eric Reid being midway through a contract year, he’s accepted a move to another position. The 49ers will shift the fifth-year defender from safety to linebacker.
Reid is being worked in at outside linebacker, and DC Robert Saleh said (via Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, on Twitter) he wouldn’t be surprised if the veteran becomes a starter on the weak side of the 49ers’ defensive second level.
The 49ers approached Reid about a conversion to linebacker after they released NaVorro Bowman, but the career safety made a point of asking the team if he had a role in San Francisco beyond this season. He was not given an answer.
“I asked them explicitly, ‘Can you at least tell me if I’m going to be here next year to play this position?’ They told me no,” Reid said, via Inman. “Right now I just trust the film I have at safety is good enough to enter free agency with, and now I’ll get some film at linebacker, as well.
Jaquiski Tartt usurped Reid at the strong safety position, and the 49ers will go with a Tartt-Jimmie Ward pairing on their back line. Both Ward and Tartt are under contract through 2018. Reid, the last of the 49ers’ defensive starters from their run of NFC championship game appearances, is playing this season on a fifth-year option. The LSU product has started 60 games at safety since 2013. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
The 49ers have seen rival teams make these types of conversions in recent years. The Cardinals slid Deone Bucannon from safety to inside linebacker, and the Rams did the same for Mark Barron — the latter of which is now one of the highest-paid non-rush ‘backers in the game. Barron now plays on the outside in the Rams’ 4-3 scheme, providing a blueprint for Reid. Ray-Ray Armstrong has started five games on the weak side this season, but the 49ers are at least ready to slot the 220-pound Reid in on passing downs.
Reid returned to action earlier this month after missing three games due to a knee injury. He missed the 49ers’ final six 2016 contests due to a biceps malady.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.