D.J. Reed is a Bigger Loss than it Seems

Seattle may have just got its hands on the next K’Waun Willams.
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The 49ers recently waived D.J. Reed with a non-football injury designation. Today, Reed was claimed by the Seattle Seahawks.

A positive of the situation is that losing Reed won’t have a noticeable impact on the defense. However, negatives include losing the opportunity to assess Reed’s development and losing the upside he possessed at a relatively thin position.

This season would have been a great opportunity for both Reed and the 49ers, because they’d have a third season to evaluate their backup nickel. If Reed was able to have a promising season, he’d provide a glimmer of hope in the events the team couldn’t bring back K’Waun Williams.

Williams is arguably the best nickel corner in the league, and without a doubt the best playmaker in the 49ers’ secondary. But he’s set to be a free agent next March. Out of all the defensive free agents, Williams is arguably the most important to re-sign. Even more so now with Reed out of the picture.

Related read: Prioritizing the 49ers Top 2021 Free Agents

With the cap projected to decrease by a significant margin in 2021, it may be difficult to strike a deal with Williams. Which is why having a lot of potential at the position is important. The team signed Jamar Taylor to fight for a roster spot to back up Williams, but Taylor doesn’t have the same upside as Reed.

There are a lot of unknowns coming up in 2021, and having that high-ceiling slot corner on a rookie deal would’ve really helped out the 49ers. Especially because of the combination that there is a great chance they’ll have minimal cap space next offseason, and because Williams deserves to be paid as the best inside corner in the game. Losing Reed gives Williams even more leverage when it comes to contract negotiations.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they took a risk by waiving Reed and lost. The winners here are Reed, Williams, and the Seahawks.

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, Reed was a versatile piece in the secondary. Over the last two seasons, Reed appeared in 34 out of 35 possible games. In those 34 games, Reed has recorded: 55 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery (returned for touchdown), and 2 passes defensed. Reed has also been a solid contributor on special teams.

This past season, Reed certainly held his own from a coverage standpoint. Reed played a total of 86 coverage snaps, and earned a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 80.3. To put that in perspective, Williams was the 7th highest graded corner in the league, and received a coverage grade of 77.6. However, Williams also graded out extremely well in run support and as a pass rusher. Reed on the other hand, not so much.

The future is still bright for Reed, as he’s still only 23 years old. It’s hard not to think that his best football days are still in front of him. When looking at Williams’ career, he also missed his third season. Williams was completely out of football, after being cut by both the Browns and Bears. It took him a few years to become the slot corner he is today.

At 5’10” 180 pounds, Reed is very comparable to Williams from both a physical and athletic perspective.

Reed NFL Combine numbers ‘18 (left) vs Williams Pittsburgh Pro Day numbers ‘13 (right)

  • Height/Weight: 5’9⅛” 188lbs - 5’9” 183lbs
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.51 - 4.53
  • Bench Press: 11 - 13
  • Vertical Jump: 36.5” - 36”


Seattle may have just got its hands on the next K’Waun Willams.

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