Should the Jaguars Consider Adding Jordan Reed to Replenish the Tight End Room?
In an unsurprising move, the Washington Redskins released veteran tight end Jordan Reed on Thursday, making the talented pass-catcher a free agent for the first time in his career.
Due to Reed's extensive history with new Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who was has coached Reed in every season he has played other than his rookie year in 2013, many have made the connection between a possible reunion between the two.
Gruden's past offensive schemes with Washington and the Cincinnati Bengals (offensive coordinator from 2011-2013) heavily involved the tight end position, and as it stands today, Gruden doesn't have a true No. 1 tight end at his disposal in Jacksonville.
Could this mean the Jaguars would be interested in bringing Reed and Gruden back together for 2020? We examine the possibility.
Why signing Jordan Reed makes sense
When healthy, Reed has been one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the entire NFL throughout his career. Reed, who will be 30 and entering his eighth season in 2020, is the prototype tight end for today's passing offenses, with a blend of size, quickness, explosiveness, and catching ability that makes him a mismatch no matter where he is on the field.
In 56 games with Gruden, Reed recorded 284 receptions for 2,872 yards (10.1 yards per reception) and 21 touchdowns. He averaged 56.8 catches for 574.4 yards and 4.2 touchdowns per season, which would be significantly better single-season production than any Jaguars' tight end has recorded in years. For context, James O'Shaughnessy led all Jaguars' tight ends in 2019 in catches (14), yards (153) and touchdowns (two), and he only played in five games.
Reed was a massive piece of Gruden's offense throughout his tenure in Washington, frequently used as Gruden's go-to receiver when the team needed a big conversion. In his best season in 2015, Reed led Washington in catches (87), yards (952) and touchdowns (11), helping lead Washington to its only playoff appearance under Gruden.
Presently, no tight end on the Jaguars' roster has the track record Reed brings, nor the skillset he has demonstrated when healthy. O'Shaughnessy will be returning from an ACL injury that could leave his potential impact in 2020 in question, while 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver played in four games and caught only three passes in an injury-riddled year. Behind those two, the Jaguars are relatively barren at the position with Nick O'Leary, Geoff Swaim, Charles Jones, Seth DeValve, and Ben Koyack all being replacement-level players.
If Gruden's offenses since 2011 have shown anything, it is that tight ends are crucial to the effectiveness of the scheme week in and week out. Reed already has extensive knowledge of the scheme Gruden will be bringing to Jacksonville, as well as past success in the scheme. Between his track record of production, fit with Gruden, and the lack of tight ends on Jacksonville's roster, Reed makes sense for the Jaguars on the service.
Why the Jaguars should avoid Jordan Reed
The obvious issues with signing Reed have nothing to do with his ability as a football player, but instead with his history of injuries.
Reed has never played 16 games in any regular season of his career, missing seven games as a rookie, five in 2014, two in 2015, four in 2016, 10 in 2017, three in 2018, and all 16 games in 2019.
Reed's injury history consists of ankle, hamstring, chest, toe, and shoulder injuries, but it is the kind of injury that ended his 2019 season before it began that should concern any potential teams interested in signing Reed.
In a preseason game vs. the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 22, Reed sustained a concussion that would keep him sidelined for the entirety of the 2019 season. Reed was just cleared from the concussion protocol on Wednesday, so he spent roughly 181 days in the protocol, a concerning reality.
This was unfortunately just the latest in a string on concussions Reed has sustained throughout his career. According to Sports Injury Predictor, Reed sustained six concussions prior to the one he dealt with in August, dating back to his days with the Florida Gators. That means he sustained seven concussions in less than 10 years.
If Reed was only dealing with a specific injury over and over again, that would be one thing. But he has played in only 65 games in his career due to a wide variety of injuries, with concussions being the most concerning and prevalent of them all.
Jacksonville has signed veterans with injury histories who haven't worked out at tight end several times in the past (Julius Thomas, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Geoff Swaim), and Reed would be another risky move that could end up hampering the Jaguars down the road if they are too invested in him making an impact in the offense.
Reed could make sense on a short-term contract with a small amount of guaranteed money, but his injury history could be too much to overlook for any team, especially one like the Jaguars who need instant and consistent impacts in 2020.
But with that said, not many teams make as much sense for Reed as a player than the Jaguars. When combining Gruden's presence with the Jaguars' complete void at the tight end position, Reed makes a lot of sense.
It is a tough situation for Reed, but chances are he lands with another team in 2020 due to his track record as a pass-catching weapon. It ultimately wouldn't be surprising in the slightest to see Jacksonville be that team, even if some risk is involved.