The 29-year-old Reed played only 19 games over the past three seasons because of injuries — including foot, toe and hamstring issues — but the concussions were the biggest issue. Reed was on the receiving end of a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit by Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal on Aug. 22, and Rivera said last week that Reed remained in the concussion protocol nearly six months later. The team did not comment Thursday about whether Reed had cleared the protocol, but he wants to continue his career and intends to play in 2020, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The Redskins will save $8.5 million against the salary cap following the move; Reed had two years left on a five-year, $46.75 million deal, according to the salary website Over the Cap. The team now has $61.3 million in cap space.
Reed’s most productive season came in 2015, when he recorded 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns while playing in a career-high 14 games. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 after posting 66 receptions for 686 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games.
The seven-year veteran seemed poised to have a successful 2019 season; he looked healthy and active during training camp and the preseason. He spoke of feeling stronger than in years past, having had the benefit of training in the offseason instead of rehabbing injuries.
“I feel a lot different, man,” Reed said during training camp. “I was able to train this whole three months leading up to camp. Before, I was trying to walk again and just getting out of the [walking] boot and things like that. I feel a lot better not dealing with as much pain, and I feel stronger.”
Then came Washington’s third preseason contest, when Reed saw his first game action of the year. According to Jay Gruden, who was then the team’s head coach, Gruden had wanted Reed to have one pass thrown to him in a preseason game before shutting him down until the regular season. After Reed dropped the first ball thrown to him by quarterback Case Keenum, Gruden planned to remove him from the game, but Reed asked Gruden to let him catch one pass first. On the next attempt, Reed was hit by Neal, causing the concussion that would end his season and his time with the Redskins.
The team will now need to address the tight end position. In addition to Reed’s departure, veteran Vernon Davis retired this offseason. Washington had shown interest in Greg Olsen, Rivera’s longtime tight end with the Carolina Panthers, but Olsen ultimately signed with the Seattle Seahawks. The Redskins could look to sign a tight end in free agency, which begins March 18. Veteran tight ends who could be available include Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Hunter Henry and Tyler Eifert.
Reed finished his Redskins career with 329 catches for 3,371 yards and 24 touchdowns in 65 games.