If he’s available, Justin Reid would be perfect for the Cleveland Browns
The NFL trade deadline is November 3rd, and fans are wondering whether or not the 4-2 Cleveland Browns will make a move. Expecting a Yannick Ngakoue-type deal is unrealistic, but you can bet that general manager Andrew Berrys is doing his due diligence across the league. Young, ascending players at a discount are what he’ll likely be looking for, and the Houston Texans just so happen to have one of those.
No, it’s not quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Justin Reid was a third-round pick in 2018 and has since become one of the NFL’s best hybrid safeties. In both 2018 and 2019, Reid earned Pro Football Focus overall and coverage grades of above 76. He plays the run well when in the box, and can also function as a deep safety. On a Houston defense that has fallen off the past two seasons, Reid has been a bright spot.
So why would the Texans even consider trading the 23-year-old? Simply put; Houston is not in a good spot as a franchise. They fired head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start to this season, signaling a change in direction. O’Brien had been with the team since 2014 and ended up taking on a level of responsibility and control similar to what Bill Belichick has with the New England Patriots.
The problem was that O’Brien is not Belichick. Houston went 52-48 in the regular season under O’Brien but were just 2-4 in the playoffs. They found their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson in 2017, but a porous offensive line has limited his success. Last season, O’Brien tried to right this wrong, but overcorrected.
He sent two first-rounds pick along with a second-rounder to the Miami Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That was already an overpay, but to make matters worse, the Texans didn’t extend Tunsil right away. This gave the player all the leverage, and he ended up signing a three-year $66 million deal in April of this year, giving him the highest salary for an offensive lineman.
The Texans now have around $7 million in cap space, and that’s before Deshaun Watson’s $40 million yearly extension kicks in beginning in 2022. Houston is also without a first or second-round pick this year. They would currently be sending the seventh overall pick to the Dolphins.
Oh, and they also traded DeAndre Hopkins, a top-three receiver in the game, to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick and a running back (David Johnson) making over $11 million this season. Not great.
So to summarize: the Texans need to restock their bare cupboards of draft capital, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to sign Reid to an extension following the 2021 season. The Browns, meanwhile, have a need at safety, along with nine draft picks in 2021. Nine rookies are not making next year’s roster, and it’s highly unlikely the team would be able to find a better player than Reid in the third round.
If Cleveland could land Reid for the price of a third-rounder, they should send Houston a Christmas card this year. Reid’s versatility would fit perfectly in Joe Woods’ defense, which makes heavy use of extra safeties. Reid could fill the big nickel role next season, while Ronnie Harrison starts at strong safety and Grant Delpit roams around as the free safety. That’s a vastly better safety group than what the Browns have now, and it could end up being even better if the team were to draft a rookie, which would not be out of the question in the slightest, even after making a trade like this.
As far as Reid’s long-term fit with the Browns, he’d likely cost less than $10 million per year on an extension, which would be a good value for a player of his caliber. Having Reid and Delpit as the safety tandem through 2023 would be very nice, and Reid’s presence on the roster would allow Berry to target other spots on the defense early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
No one really knows what the Texans are doing right now, or what their plan is for the future. But it’s certainly possible that Justin Reid is available, and if he is, the Browns need to seriously consider trading for him and shoring up the safety position.