The Carolina Panthers filled a major offseason need Monday, signing safety Eric Reid to a three-year contract.
Carolina signed Reid to a one-year deal four weeks into the 2018 season and immediately became the team’s starting strong safety. He finished sixth on the team in tackles despite playing only 13 games.
“It gives my family peace of mind, knowing what will be the next couple years,” Reid said Monday. “I enjoy being here, the city reminds me of where I grew up in Louisiana. It’s low-key here, it’s not too busy. ... I like the defense, I like the coaching staff, so I’m excited.
“There were a couple factors (in deciding where to sign). I can envision my family being here during the season and being satisfied with the contract. If I wasn’t satisfied with the contract, I would’ve went into free agency.”
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The sixth-year safety out of LSU played his first five seasons in San Francisco, where he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2013.
He quickly made an impact in the Panthers’ locker room, with now-retired center Ryan Kalil calling him a “perfect example” of the quality veterans the team has brought in over the past several years.
“He’s a good football player but he’s also a great human being,” Kalil told the Observer in December. “He’s an incredible teammate, there won’t be one guy in here that you can find that doesn’t like Eric Reid. I think that says a lot about the guys upstairs and the homework that they have to do to find that stuff out.”
Both the Panthers’ starting safeties from 2018 were scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, with Reid and Mike Adams seeking new deals.
Reid, 27, expressed interest in returning to Carolina during the season but said he was seeking “market value” for his next contract. During a conference call with local media Monday, he confirmed he feels he got market value with a deal worth approximately $22 million.
Head coach Ron Rivera also expressed interest in bringing Reid back, listing several reasons why during the last week of the regular season.
“We always knew he was a solid football player and he’s showed it to us,” Rivera said. “Very headsy, very smart guy, understands the game. Takes tremendous care of himself, he’s a good teammate — he cares about his craft. As a person, he’s a solid guy. He’s very convicted, got a very strong belief.
“He supports the military, tremendously, for his obvious reason of his mother having served and his cousins. He’s civic-minded, I think he’s a guy who the more you get to know about him, the more personable he becomes for you.
“I think he’s an impressive young man.”
Reid said he didn’t receive any contract offer after the 49ers let him walk after the 2017 season, until the Panthers signed him in late September 2018.
That doesn’t mean his new deal came at a discount, however. The only loyalty that mattered to the father of two is to his family.
“(Loyalty to the Panthers) played a minimal factor,” Reid said. “It’s an interesting aspect in sports, where people wonder how much loyalty plays a part. For me, I don’t see a lot of loyalty in this business — the Panthers could cut me tomorrow, if they wanted to. The fact that they brought me in last year didn’t play that much of a role moving forward.
“(Being away from family) is probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve never been away from my family that long, especially my daughters, so it made the season that much more difficult. So I’m excited that this year, they’ll be with me.”
Reid has been one of the NFL’s most polarizing figures over the past few seasons, beginning in 2016 when he was one of the first players to kneel during the national anthem alongside then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in a protest of racial inequality and social injustice in America.
He continued to do so with the Panthers in 2018, and gained national attention when he alleged he’d been randomly drug tested six times over the course of the season.
He believed the repeated testing was a byproduct of the collusion case he filed against the NFL, which remains open. While the NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement in January that he was not targeted, Reid disagreed Monday and asserted his new contract only strengthens his case.
“If anything, I think it proves my point from last year, when I didn’t sign until the fourth week of the regular season, for almost league minimum,” he said. “Then this year, I signed a more substantial contract and nothing’s changed over the time period — I’m the same player.”
Carolina now has Reid, 2018 draft pick Rashaan Gaulden, Da’Norris Searcy and Colin Jones as safeties on the roster.