RENTON — Which is the real Jarran Reed?
The player who became just the third defensive tackle in Seahawks history to have more than 10 sacks in a season, which he did in 2018 with 10½?
Or the player who has 5½ sacks total in his other three seasons?
Reed re-signed with Seattle in March to a contract that indicated maybe neither the Seahawks nor Reed is really sure just yet.
As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell noted, most defensive tackles with that kind of single-season success on their resume “would expect to get massive deals once they reach free agency.”
Reed got far from a bad deal — the $14.1 million guaranteed was roughly three times what he earned in his previous four seasons, and he has the second-highest average per year of any Seahawks defender for the next two seasons, after Bobby Wagner.
But just a two-year commitment also means the Seahawks won’t be overly hamstrung for long if for some reason Reed falters. Reed signed a two-year deal instead of trying to get something longer, doing so before the free-agency signing period officially opened. That indicates Reed didn’t want to gamble too much, either.
“It was pretty easy,” Reed said Tuesday via Zoom of his decision to re-sign with the Seahawks. “I wanted to stay here. I love it here in Seattle.”
As Barnwell wrote at the time, Reed “likely took a short-term deal in hopes of producing another big year before the salary cap rises dramatically in a couple of years” and, he hopes, being able to cash in even more greatly then.
That, though, was before the COVID-19 crisis really hit, and the NFL has since agreed to spread out possible losses in revenue in cap hits over the next four years, meaning lots of potential uncertainty down the road for both teams and players.
For Reed, there’s only one thing to really do about it — try to prove that the real Jarran Reed is the one from 2018, when he joined Hall of Famers Cortez Kennedy and John Randle as the only Seahawks defensive tackles with 10 or more sacks in a season.
While sacks can often be somewhat fluky, Reed got his pretty consistently — he had two in three games apiece but had at least half of a sack in eight games. He also had 24 quarterback hits, which ranked 12th in the NFL, going only five games without getting at least one. That kind of pass-rushing consistency isn’t easy to achieve from the tackle position.
Any ability to build off that momentum, however, was squashed when Reed found out in the spring of 2019 that he was being suspended for the first six games of the season for his involvement in a domestic-violence incident in 2017 (he was not charged).
Reed was able to go through the preseason with the Seahawks a year ago but then had to disappear once the regular season started. And while he downplayed the impact of that at the time, Tuesday he admitted it was a difficult period.
“I don’t make excuses,” he said. “I could have came in and done a way better job. But it was very different for me, something I’d never been through in my life. And to come late, behind the eight ball already, I tried so hard not to over try. But when you come in late you want to just be a factor to your team so much. And sometimes you’ve got to let the game come to you without forcing it.”
Reed, who played in all of the final 10 games of the regular season, finished with just two sacks and eight quarterback hits (though one forced one of the biggest plays of the season, the forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jadeveon Clowney that sparked Seattle’s comeback win at San Francisco).
“I’ve just got to bounce back,” Reed said. “That year is behind me now. That was then. And I’m in way better shape than what I was. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to get this fresh start and start this season with a clean slate. I’m just excited for this season because I worked really hard and I’m not gonna let none of these guys down.”
At one point Tuesday, Reed said his return to Seattle — which selected him in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Alabama — was also about settling “unfinished business.”
“I just didn’t want to leave on that note,” he said. “The way the season went, and especially the way it went for me personally, I just did not want to go out like that, basically, with a bad taste in my mouth.”
When he signed, the Seahawks were thinking they could pair him again with Clowney, hopefully this time getting a full season of the two working together.
Clowney, stunningly, remains unsigned, so maybe that could still happen. And most still expect that Seattle could make another move to bolster its defensive line.
But what could serve as one of the biggest boosts for the Seahawks is a return by Reed to his 2018 form.
Tuesday, Reed said don’t be surprised if that’s what happens.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “But it’s definitely key that I get back to that. That playmaking ability. That spirit there that never left. You know nobody’s perfect and no season’s gonna be perfect. Sometimes you’re gonna have a downfall, especially when you have so much production the year before — you’re gonna be a little bit more keyed on. Now we’ve got guys around us that are going to make plays and open up doors for everybody to make plays. And that’s just the way it’s gonna go and I’m just ready to get to it.”