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Eric Reid, one of the NFL’s best safeties, finally got signed after being unemployed for 6 months

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Reid, the first player to join Colin Kaepernick’s protests, filed a grievance in May alleging NFL owners were colluding to keep him out of the league.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid has finally gotten his contract after six months of being a free agent. Reid signed a deal with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

The deal is for one year and worth up to $1.9 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

It was a long time coming. Reid is notable for his hard-hitting play and for being shuffled around the 49ers’ depth chart to accommodate injuries and a better-than average group of safeties.

Still, whether it was at free safety, strong safety, or even outside linebacker, Reid was regarded as a good player, though he was mostly ignored during the 2018 offseason. At the beginning of May, Reid followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead and filed a grievance through the NFLPA, accusing NFL owners of colluding to avoid giving him a contract.

What about Reid’s involvement in protests?

Reid was also an early supporter of the movement started by Kaepernick in which players sat or knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest systemic racism in the United States.

Reid has stated in the past he wasn’t sure if teams would stay away from him as a result of his demonstrations, but that he didn’t regret doing them. At the beginning of free agency, Reid made it clear he thought his involvement in the protests was preventing him from getting a fair shake from NFL owners:

Reid continued to kneel in protest in 2017 even after Kaepernick was blackballed. Kaepernick is still good enough to play but remains unsigned.

Reid met with the Bengals in early April, where owner Mike Brown explained he intended on prohibiting protests during the anthem. While Reid has previously said he wouldn’t kneel if signed, he didn’t make a commitment to the Bengals on that particular subject. It was also reportedly met with pause by head coach Marvin Lewis.

About a month later, Reid filed his grievance. That case is still pending:

Luckily for Reid, the Panthers recognized his skills and what he can bring the team — and they weren’t the only ones. The 49ers were also interested in bringing Reid back, but he decided to join the Panthers instead.

Earlier this month, owner David Tepper also voiced his support for players’ right to protest.

“To say that [they aren’t patriotic] makes me so aggravated and angry,” Tepper told CNBC’s Scott Wapner. “It’s just wrong, it’s dead wrong.”

It’s unclear if Reid will continue to demonstrate during the national anthem:

Kaepernick, his brother in protest in San Francisco, took to Instagram to congratulate his former teammate on his new job.

What is Carolina getting in Reid?

Reid, 26, was a 2013 first-round pick by the 49ers. In 70 career games, he has 319 tackles, two forced fumbles, 10 interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and 34 passes defensed. He’s a strong defender in run support and has a nose for the ball.

Although he’s versatile, his best position is strong safety. That’s where he started and where he should never have been moved from by the 49ers, though he was far from bad at free safety or even his brief stint at linebacker. Reid said he switched positions last year after the 49ers released NaVorro Bowman halfway through the season:

The Panthers have serious depth issues at safety after putting Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve with a concussion. General manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera settled on Reid being the best option to replace him.

Earlier in the week, Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith told ESPN that he hoped the team would sign Reid.

“He’s one of the best men I’ve been around, so I hope that is something that can happen for us because I know that with the injuries we have, he’s a guy that can help this team,” Smith said.

”I really hope he gets a shot. He deserves it, and it’s not right what’s happened to him.’’

Are there any concerns with Reid?

Reid has a history of injuries and most concerning, concussions. That includes a severe concussion in 2014 that was his third in the NFL, with the first two coming in the first nine games of his rookie season.

When he returned from that particular concussion, Reid’s play was iffy and some thought he was playing “safe.” Since then, though, he’s played at a high level, but has missed nine games over the past two season due to arm and knee injuries.