The Jordan Reed Dilemma

In 2015, Jordan Reed was a monster. He combined silky-smooth route running ability, ankle-breaking separation skills, and seemingly plucked every ball out of the air thrown near him. Among Wide Receivers and Tight Ends with at least 40 targets, he ranked number one with a catch percentage of 76.3%. He racked up 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He did all this with Kirk Cousins playing his first full season as a starter, and only missed two games due to injury.

Two games. What we wouldn’t pay to have Jordan Reed play a 14 game season now. He missed four games in 2016, and is about to miss his fifth game out of 11 in 2016.

Reed was signed to a five-year, $46.8 million deal in May 2016. The deal seemed perfect at the time; right off the back of a huge year in which he had managed to stay relatively healthy. But the sad truth is memories of highlight-reel catches and game winning touchdowns are rapidly being replaced by the regular image of Reed’s name appearing on the injury report. 2015 seems so long ago.

Let’s compare Reed, his contract and his production to his peers. Here are the top five paid Tight Ends in the NFL:

Reed01

At first glance, it’s hard to debate Reed doesn’t belong here. But now let’s take a look at their statistical production. The stats here are averaged out per year since they signed their big-money deals. 2017 stats have been extrapolated based on production so far.

Reed02

Here we see a clear discrepancy between Reed and the rest. Injuries are hitting hard, and return on investment is looking rather poor so far.

So what are the options? It seems very unlikely the Redskins would be ready to throw the towel in just yet. Doing so this off-season whilst saving $4.9 million in cap space, would also result in a $5.4 million dead cap hit.

But with Reed’s dreadful injury record over the past two-years, this could create the interesting scenario where he is effectively playing in a pseudo contract-year in 2018. If his availability were to be similarly restricted, it will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin as far as the team are concerned. With cap hits of $10.3 million in 2018, $9.7 million in 2019 and $10.3 million again in 2020, the Redskins simply can’t afford to allocate so much of their cap to a player who doesn’t contribute.

As pessimistic as it may be, the question has to be asked: have we already seen the best of Jordan Reed?

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