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Eric Reid to Be Shifted from Safety to Linebacker by 49ers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2017

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) warms up before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh confirmed the San Francisco 49ers plan to use Eric Reid as a linebacker going forward, according to Joe Fann of the 49ers' official website. 

Saleh explained the decision Wednesday:

Joe Fann @Joe_Fann

Saleh thinks Eric Reid can be a special linebacker. He noted the evolution of RBs and TEs in the NFL & Reid's ability to match up with them.

Reid spent his first four years as a safety in San Francisco's secondary before the team began shifting him to linebacker for short stretches.

Reid is in the final year of his contract, which raises the stakes for his position change somewhat. The 25-year-old told the San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman the team has offered him no reassurances he'll be a linebacker in San Francisco next year.

"I asked them explicitly, 'Can you at least tell me if I'm going to be here next year to play this position?' They told me no," Reid said. "Right now I just trust the film I have at safety is good enough to enter free agency with, and now I’ll get some film at linebacker, as well."

Reid added, however, the move has forced him to sharpen his focus as he prepares for games during the week: "I like the mental aspect of it. I have to learn. Sometimes I've gotten bored in meetings because it’s the same thing over and over again. This has given me a new energy, a new juice just learning a new position. I'll try to embrace it and learn the best I can."

Reid needs to look no further than a division rival to see how beneficial going from safety to linebacker can be.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Mark Barron as he struggled at safety two-and-a-half years into his NFL career. The St. Louis Rams began using Barron as a linebacker shortly after he arrived in 2014 and he has since thrived. Barron signed a five-year, $45 million extension with the Rams in March 2016.

Moving Reid to linebacker makes sense for the 49ers. He has a 39.5 overall grade on Pro Football Focus, which ranks 83rd among safeties. Now, San Francisco can use Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt at safety while counting on Reid to defend opposing tight ends and running backs in pass coverage.

Like Barron, Reid could potentially play himself into a lucrative contract as well if the position switch works out and he shows he can serve in a variety of roles for an NFL defense.

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