The Carolina Panthers signed safety Eric Reid, the team announced Thursday, after the former Pro Bowl player spent more than six months as a free agent.
The first player to join then-teammate Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 season, Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL in May as he remained unsigned in free agency.
According to multiple reports, that grievance remains active despite Thursday’s deal with the Panthers, which did not require Reid to dismiss or settle the claim. Also per multiple reports, Panthers owner David Tepper was involved in conversations that led to Reid’s signing, but the discussions remained about football and did not cover the subject of the anthem.
“This is strictly a football decision,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. “On every decision, we ask ourselves if the guy has the skill set and the ability as a football player, if he fits into our scheme, and if he can help us win football games. And the answer to those three questions was yes.”
Shortly after announcing the news, the Panthers tweeted a photo of Reid signing his contract and holding up a raised fist.
Kaepernick responded with a post on his Instagram account Thursday afternoon.
“Congratulations to my brother @e_reid35, an all pro safety who should have been signed the first day of free agency, who has signed a football contract.
He has was the FIRST person to kneel alongside me. Eric is a social justice warrior, continues to support his wife, two beautiful daughters and communities in need.”
Reid said in March that he did not plan to protest during the anthem in 2018, though he emphasized that he would remain active in his efforts in other ways.
Reid, 26, spent his first five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, who selected the LSU product 18th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie and has collected 10 interceptions and defended 36 passes in 70 career games (69 starts).
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said last month that the team opted to re-sign safety Jaquiski Tartt long-term instead of Reid, and the team didn’t think Reid would be interested in a low-cost contract with a backup role.
According to multiple reports Thursday, the 49ers offered Reid a one-year deal this week before he signed with the Panthers. Tartt has been battling a shoulder injury and missed last week’s game.
After hitting free agency in March, Reid drew little interest from teams. He visited the Cincinnati Bengals in April, where owner Mike Brown reportedly asked Reid if he planned to continue kneeling during the anthem, but no contract offer was given. In August, the Tennessee Titans reportedly scheduled Reid for a visit, but he had multiple flights canceled because of weather, and the team signed Kenny Vaccaro instead.
The Panthers had a need at safety after placing Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve with a concussion.
—Field Level Media