Eric Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick. While Kaepernick’s struggle to get back into the league has been well-documented, Reid going unsigned as a free agent this offseason was perhaps the more egregious example of a player being punished for protesting, and Reid filed a grievance accordingly.

Today, though, Reid’s free agency ended, as he signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers.

The team announced it further in a way that would have never happened with Jerry Richardson still around:

The team had a need for a safety, and Reid was clearly one of the best options available. Via ESPN:

He will replace veteran Da’Norris Searcy, who last week was placed on injured reserve after suffering his second concussion in a month.

“Eric has been a starting safety in the NFL and has played at a high level throughout his career,” general manager Marty Hurney said. “After we put Da’Norris Searcy on injured reserve, Ron [Rivera] and I discussed our options, and Eric was at the top of our list.

“He is a physical safety with good ball skills and play-making ability.”

Reid also had the support of veteran wideout Torrey Smith:

The announcement came a day after wide receiver Torrey Smith, a former teammate of Reid’s with the 49ers, made a case for signing the 2013 Pro Bowl selection.

“Honestly, with our injuries I hope he ends up here,” Smith said. “I know how he is as a talent. If this is something where they come and talk to me about him I’ll be glad to talk about him as a player, as a person. He’s one of the best men I’ve been around, so I hope that is something that can happen for us because I know that with the injuries we have he’s a guy that can help this team.”

“I really hope he gets a shot. He deserves it and it’s not right what’s happened to him.”

As for Reid’s grievance, he reportedly doesn’t plan to drop it:

That makes sense; just because he eventually signed a deal partway through the season as an injury replacement doesn’t mean he didn’t lose out on earnings. If he plays well, it might even help his case, even just from a public opinion standpoint; the only non-protest reason he wouldn’t have been in the league would be that he couldn’t play, and if he can, that really narrows it down.

Good for Reid, and good for the Panthers.

[ESPN]

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.