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Eric Reid blames his unemployment on anthem protests, and he’s probably right

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The man who knelt beside Colin Kaepernick in protest is claiming he is now feeling the effects.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Reid is not stupid. He must’ve known that joining forces with somehow-still-unemployed Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality, racial injustice and, in his words, “systemic oppression”—namely, by linking arms and kneeling for the requisite pre-game playing of the national anthem—would palpably alter his career trajectory in the NFL. He was right.

As of this writing, Reid is a free agent. Reid’s former employer, the San Francisco 49ers, allowed the one-time Pro Bowler to hit the market five seasons after selecting him with the 18th overall pick back in the 2013 NFL Draft, an understandable decision given the team’s desire to rid themselves of relics from the Trent Balke era. GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan signed five-year contracts concurrently with the Niners last offseason, so ownership is clearly committed to empowering this duo to promote the attainment of whatever “vision” they have in mind from a roster-construction standpoint.

Now, I don’t wanna make any conjectures about the existence of some nefarious phantom element that is actively abating Reid’s employability, but the fact that a versatile, 26-year-old safety—a position, I should add, that is characterized by a league-wide dearth of talent relative to other positions—cannot find work is, frankly, baffling. At least it should be baffling. Reid believes its his anthem demonstrations that are responsible for the holdup, and he’s probably not wrong. NFL owners are, if nothing else, astute political agents and masters of even the most arcane public relations directives, so it stands to reason that many of them would be strongly against alienating a broad contingent of their fanbases by signing a, erm, divisive personality like Reid. (It sure seems like there was some sort of unspoken, systemic effort in place to blacklist Kaepernick, but I’ll digress). If this is indeed the case, then. . .yikes.

ANYWAY. Enough poking at these coals. The Steelers should sign Eric Reid! That would be really neat. In fact, not only was Reid better than any safety on Pittsburgh’s roster in 2017, he’s more versatile, too. After Navarro Bowman was traded to the Oakland Raiders last season, Reid took some snaps at linebacker, in addition to the ones he took at both safety positions. The Steelers, who have cavernous, gaping apertures at both safety and middle linebacker, surely stand to benefit from a player of Reid’s caliber. Being that Tyrann Mathieu, two seasons removed from a first-team All-Pro nod, commanded just a one year, $7 million contact from the Texans, I can’t imagine that Reid is the kind of signing that would break the bank. Then again, I’m not a GM. If I was, I would’ve signed Eric Reid by now.