Reed, 29, missed all of last season with a concussion, the seventh documented head injury of his career. While this move was largely expected, it officially ends a seven-year journey between the two sides.
His size, speed and athleticism created mismatches, and Washington’s offense often split him out wide to take advantage of undersized linebackers or safeties.
Under former coach Jay Gruden, Reed became the top option in the Redskins‘ passing game — catching a career-high 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. After that season, Reed signed a six-year, $46.75 million extension as the Redskins locked up their primary playmaker.
But Reed could not stay healthy. Since 2016, Reed has missed 33 of 64 games with various ailments — from hamstring issues to shoulder injuries to getting the sesamoid bone in his big toes surgically removed. He made the only Pro Bowl of his career in 2016 with 66 catches for 686 yards.
In 2019, Reed was on the receiving end of a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal during Washington’s third preseason game. A concussed Reed — it was the seventh documented brain injury of his career — was unable to pass the necessary tests to return to play.
Until recently, Reed was still in concussion protocol — six months after the Neal hit. But on Wednesday, Reed was finally cleared, according to multiple reports, paving the way for Washington to move on.
Despite his injury history, Reed reportedly has every intention of continuing his career. Before his concussion, the tight end said during training camp he was at his healthiest in years.
In July, Reed detailed how he had learned to take better care of his body, from massaging his feet before and after every practice to working with a physical therapist.
Teammates saw the work Reed put in to get back on the field.
“For him, it’s everything he does outside of practice,” running back Chris Thompson said last summer. “That’s really important for him. He’s been on top of it. That’s what he’s been doing the last six, seven years we’ve been here in the league.”
Reed, too, has been on the record saying he’s willing to risk his health for football. In a 2017 Sports Illustrated profile, he told the magazine that he was taught not to back down in the face of football’s big hits. A year earlier, Reed told the New York Times that he wanted to keep playing because he had a family, including his young daughter, to support.
“I can’t just give up,” Reed told The New York Times. “You know what I mean?”
Reed finished his Redskins career with 3,371 yards on 329 receptions and 24 touchdowns. Since entering the league, Reed ranks 12th among tight ends in yardage, even with missing 47 games in that span. The 29-year-old has yet to play all 16 games in a season, playing a career-high 14 in 2015.
With Reed’s release and the retirement of veteran Vernon Davis, the Redskins have a giant hole at tight end. Washington pursued former Panthers tight end Greg Olsen this offseason, but found out Tuesday that the 34-year-old had chosen to sign with the Seattle Seahawks instead.
If Washington looks to upgrade the position in free agency, the team has money to spend. After cutting Reed, the Redskins have almost $61 million in salary-cap space, according to Over The Cap. This year’s free-agent tight end class includes notable names like the Chargers’ Hunter Henry, Indianapolis’ Eric Ebron and Atlanta’s Austin Hooper.
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