With the offseason signing of defensive tackle Jarran Reed, the Green Bay Packers’ early returns have been multi-faceted. They have a formidable sidekick for Kenny Clark, an opportunity for Devonte Wyatt to develop as a backup, and an addition that has turned the defensive line into the best unit on the team.
Reed is entering his seventh season in the NFL. Signing with the Packers this offseason was a mutually beneficial situation for both sides. Green Bay sought to fortify the interior of a defensive line that relied heavily on the likes of Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke a season ago. Reed provides an immediate impact in a starting role (or at a least high-usage one), while Wyatt and second-year player Tedarrell Slaton pair with Dean Lowry, who had five sacks and nine QB hits a season ago. Together they give the D-line meaningful depth, unlike almost every other position group on the team. Reed can play his way from a league minimum salary up to over $4 million this year thanks to roster and incentive bonuses. It’s the type of prove-it deal that leaves a player motivated to rack up some meaningful statistics.
Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry had high praise for Reed in his media availability last week, noting the versatility the 29-year-old will bring to the Green Bay defensive line. He highlighted the near Pro Bowl-caliber ability that Reed has shown, particularly in 2018 when he had 10.5 sacks.
“He brings a lot to the table just as not only a veteran but a veteran that’s played at a high level. We’re going to move him all over,” Barry said, via Packers.com. “We’re going to put him everywhere. I think he’s a guy that, if he was in a true 4-3 system, I think he could be a stereotypical 3 technique. But he can play up and down the line. He can play over a center, he can play over a guard, he can play over a tackle. Really glad he’s here, obviously. He’s going to help us a lot.”
Reed has a notable pedigree. He worked his way from East Mississippi Community College, better known as “Last Chance U” from the Netflix series, to Alabama. He became a two-year starter in Tuscaloosa and a national champion. The Seattle Seahawks took him in the second round in 2016. He played five seasons with the Seahawks before signing a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.
Talent has never seemed the issue for Reed. However, his breakout 2018 season was followed by a suspension-marred 2019 year that saw him sit out the first six games of the season due to a violation of the personal conduct policy. With those issues hopefully behind him, Reed is now flanking one of the best defensive tackles in the game in Kenny Clark. Barry and the defense intends to exploit matchups and force offensive lines to either not double Clark or take their chances with one-on-one matchups with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary off the edge.
Much has been made of the approach that general manager Brian Gutekunst has taken in the draft. Selecting Quay Walker and Wyatt with the first two selections went a long way in helping to bolster Green Bay’s front seven. Those rookies are immensely talented and may contribute right away, but there’s no guarantee of an immediate impact. A savvy signing like Reed is one that frees up your best players and allows others to develop while providing depth at a critical position.
As for being the best unit on the team? Some will say cornerback, as the Packers have arguably the best group in the league. Jaire Alexander stands alongside promising sophomore Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas, who had a breakout last year. Having Clark, Reed, and Co. be able to put pressure on a quarterback consistently will make the corners’ job that much easier.
This won’t be the Green Bay Packers of the past few seasons, and that may be a good thing. A defense-driven front might be exactly the change of pace this team needs. If the Packers are going to get back over the hump after a decade-plus of coming close, they’ll be able to look back at the contributions of players like Jarran Reed to see how they got there.