2023 Free Agents Analysis: OLB Malik Reed – Unrestricted

Player: Malik Reed

Position: Outside Linebacker

Experience: 4 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2022 Salary Cap Hit: $1,500,000                

2022 Season Breakdown:

The Pittsburgh Steelers sensed a lack of quality depth at the outside linebacker position entering the 2022 season. They addressed the concern by acquiring Malik Reed from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a swap of late-round draft picks. It failed to address their depth concerns, as it turned out.

Reed was successful over the previous two seasons filling in due to injury, posting eight sacks in 2020 and five in 2021. He did not come close to matching that level of skill in his brief time in Pittsburgh, finishing the year with one sack, 25 tackles, one tackle for loss, four hits, and two passes defended.

While he spent much of the season as the third or fourth rusher behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith,  the Steelers continually found ways around it. After Watt was injured in Week 1, they began to employ rookie third-round defensive end DeMarvin Leal on the end.

By the end of the season, though, they seemingly decided that they had seen enough. Reed was made inactive in the final two games in spite of the fact that he was healthy. Yet he did play when he was active, logging nearly 400 defensive snaps on the year.

Not particularly well, though, which is why it was Jamir Jones who was active as the third rusher by year’s end. They didn’t even bother to dress more than three outside linebackers, opting instead to dress an extra defensive lineman.

Free Agency Outlook:

It’s unlikely that the Steelers will show much of any interest in re-signing Reed as he hits unrestricted free agency, given that they weren’t even interested in giving him a helmet by year’s end. As it is, they ended up paying him $1.5 million for his time in 2022, in addition to giving up a sixth-round pick to get a seventh back.

Reed was originally due to earn $2,433,000 million for the season with the Broncos, the value of an original-round restricted free-agent tender. The Broncos were likely to cut him before the trade, so he was amply willing to take a pay cut to facilitate that move.

Despite how the year turned out, he likely would have stood a fair chance of being claimed off waivers based on his prior production, so it’s understandable why the Steelers wanted to trade for him rather than hope that he is waived and then clears waivers; if they were to claim him, they would have had to pay his full salary.

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