There are high expectations for 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson and he should improve on his 35 catches for 502 yards from 2017.
But Reed is an offensive centerpiece.
“Getting Jordan Reed back at tight end is going to be critical to our success,” Gruden said.
The five-year veteran showed out in 2015 with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he’s never played a full 16-game schedule due to injuries and has missed at least four games in four of his seasons. Hamstring and toe injuries ended his 2017 after six games.
The 6-foot-3, 236-pounder is a massive target with good hands and speed for the incoming Smith, who had success with Vernon Davis in San Francisco and helped Travis Kelce earn consecutive Pro Bowl selections and 1,000-yards seasons in Kansas City the last two years.
“I’m going to assume that he’s going to be there,” Gruden said of Reed. “That’s the way that we’re going to plan. We always have a Plan B, just in case.
“There’s a lot of things that Jordan can do that not a lot of people can do that you’re going to have in each game plan and your installation. If he’s not available to us, then we have other ways we can attack a defense. We have 10-20 plays a game, at least, that are just for Jordan, to get him the rock. We anticipate him being fully healthy. If something does happen, knock on wood, which I don’t think it will, we’ll adjust like we have every year.”
The Skins have a few of questions at the position. Can Reed stay healthy? If not, can Davis continue to perform at a high level? He was second on the team with 648 receiving yards and No. 3 with 43 receptions in 2017, but the 34-year-old just finished his 12th year in the league.
The status of six-year veteran Niles Paul seems uncertain, to say the least, after an odd social media post Wednesday. He’s an unrestricted free agent and tweeted: “Stayed down, played my role, & always put the team before myself. S– wild, but I don’t even know why I’m acting surprised”
Jeremy Sprinkle (2 career receptions) and Mannaseh Garner (o career receptions) are the only other two tight ends currently on the active roster.
In a year of some transition — a new quarterback and expected additions at receiver and running back — having the reliable, when available, Reed would bring some much-needed stability at a key position.