Safety Eric Reid signs 3-year deal to return to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Safety Eric Reid says the three-year deal worth slightly more than $22 million he signed with the Carolina Panthers on Monday should strengthen his collusion grievance against the NFL.

The NFL Players Association filed a collusion grievance against the NFL on Reid's behalf in May when he was not signed after the San Francisco 49ers opted to let their 2013 first-round pick become an unrestricted free agent.

The grievance, which is ongoing, alleged team owners and the league, influenced by President Donald Trump, colluded to prevent Reid's employment because of his protests against social injustice. Reid in 2016 became the first player to join former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem.

Reid said the deal should help his case.

"If anything, it proves my point from last year. I didn't sign until a [few weeks into] the regular season,'' said Reid, signed by Carolina before the fourth game. "This year I signed a more substantial contract over the same time period. I'm the same player.''

Reid doesn't hold out much hope that Kaepernick, who has not played since the 2016 season, will be signed.

"Knowing what I know, my hope tank is on E,'' Reid said. "This is a leverage game, so we'll see what happens moving forward.''

Reid joined a group of celebrities who boycotted the recent Super Bowl in Atlanta as a show of support for Kaepernick and others protesting police brutality and racial injustice.

"I spent time with my family, did homework with my daughters, played cards,'' Reid said of how he spent Super Bowl Sunday. "It was a family day.''

Reid continued to kneel last season after signing with the Panthers, who acquired him after starting safety Da'Norris Searcy was placed on injured reserve with a concussion. It did not become a distraction and Reid was supported by his teammates, although no other players kneeled.

Quarterback Cam Newton said at the time that getting Reid was a "steal.''

"We have great players in this locker room and we've accepted him with open arms," Newton said. "I was thinking to myself, I hope he was and is as excited as everyone is having him. He's a very young, talented football player that has a lot of talent left in his body. For him to be on our team is a great thing.

"I'm going to stand by him knowing none of that will be a distraction for us winning football games."

Re-signing Reid became a priority after the season as the Panthers sought to keep a veteran presence in the secondary. Strong safety Mike Adams, who will turn 38 in March, has not been re-signed and Searcy's future is unclear.

"We always knew he was a solid football player, and he showed it to us,'' coach Ron Rivera told the team website.

Reid started the final 13 games last season, finishing with 73 tackles, five passes defensed, one interception and one sack.

But Reid's decision to re-sign before hitting the open market had little to do with loyalty to Carolina, the only team that took a chance on him last year.

"It's an interesting aspect in sports where people wonder how much loyalty plays a part,'' Reid said. "For me, I don't see a lot of loyalty in this business. The Panthers could cut me tomorrow if they wanted to.

"The fact that they brought me in last year didn't play that much of a role.''

What played a factor was that Charlotte reminds Reid of where he grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he got what he considered a fair market deal.

The average salary of the top 10 safeties in the league ranges from $7 million to $13 million a year. Reid's deal will average just over $7.3 million a year.

"I can envision my family being here during the season and being satisfied with the contract,'' Reid said when explaining why he signed early. "If I wasn't satisfied with the contract I would have gone into free agency.''

Reid still has issues with the league, from his grievance to his assertion he was drug tested randomly seven times this past season. Reid believes the league targeted him with the drug tests and more than four fines for game violations, at least two that were overturned after appeal.

"The NFL released a statement saying I was not targeted, and I believe otherwise,'' Reid said

However, getting a new deal now instead of having to spend the offseason in doubt as he did a year ago has brought Reid "peace of mind.''

"Yeah, it's been a long time coming with the way the CBA works with a fifth-year option and then [what happened] last year,'' Reid said. "It gives my family peace of mind knowing where we'll be the next couple of years. I enjoyed being here.

"I like that it's low key here. It's not too busy. Traffic isn't crazy. I like the defense and the coaching staff, so I'm excited.''

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