Despite Jordan Reed's injuries, keeping him remains Redskins best option

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed can still play. He also gets hurt a lot. He also carries a big cap number in 2018 and beyond.

All of which leads to the Redskins having three options to consider with Reed in the offseason -- one of which remains the most likely.

The Redskins placed Reed on the injured reserve list Tuesday, his season ending with only six games played and 27 receptions.

Here are the Redskins' options:

Keep him: He's 27 years old and clearly one of the better tight ends in the league when healthy. Those last two words, however, are the problem. He's missed 28 out of 80 games since entering the NFL in 2013.

Few players work harder than Reed in the offseason, so the injuries don't result from any sort of training habits. The hamstring resulted from the toe fracture that never quite healed, causing him to overcompensate and injure other areas.

But if you get rid of him, you're unloading one of the NFL's best mismatches. The injuries could shorten his career and age his game in a way no one wants. However, he can still play. When he's on the field, and the Redskins use their two tight end sets, the team is more explosive. Fellow tight end Vernon Davis averaged 14.30 yards per catch with Reed on the field in a two tight end set. Receiver Jamison Crowder has caught long passes out of this look, too. It's a weapon for this offense, one that would be hard to give up on now.

Davis can get open with his speed, but Reed gives the Redskins someone who can create separation with his moves -- an important trait when facing man coverage.

Washington, though, must build an offense where it doesn't view Reed as the focal point when healthy. His presence allowed them to feel OK when moving on from Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, knowing Reed was the centerpiece.

The hard part is that he's so good it's hard not to view him that way. Still, that means developing a more consistent rushing attack and finding a full-time back who can create big plays. It also means strengthening the receiving corps so when using three-wideout sets they can still threaten a defense. And it means developing rookie Jeremy Sprinkle, a different sort of target because of his size.

The offense didn't fall apart without Reed until the last two games and that stems as much from losing a lot of players.

There's no harm for the Redskins in seeing how Reed progresses this offseason, making sure the toe isn't an issue any longer. The other options just aren't that great.

Trade him: The difficult part is that other teams know he gets hurt a lot, too. So why would they give up much of anything to trade for him? Plenty of teams would like a player such as Reed, but it's hard to imagine them giving up a draft pick for someone who has never played more than 14 games and three times now has played 11 or fewer.

But let's say a team wanted to trade for him. They'd only have to pay his base salary ($8.25 million next year). If they gave up a conditional late-round pick and he can't play a lot? They'd be out, perhaps a sixth-round pick. That's not a big risk. And if he's that banged up they could cut him at any point in the offseason with no penalty.

Trading Reed would still affect the Redskins' cap because of the pro-rated bonus money. If they traded him before June 1, they'd save just $4.9 million against the cap and would have $5.4 million in dead money. If they traded him after June 1, they'd save $8.5 million in cap space and would have $1.8 million in dead cap in 2018 and another $3.6 million in 2019.

Cut him: The numbers are the same if the wanted to cut Reed. There would be a cap savings (post June 1), but two years of dead money. The salary cap will continue to rise, so more can be absorbed. In the last several seasons, the Redskins typically have had one or two players who count more than $2.5 million in dead money -- Jason Hatcher was on the list for $4.5 million two years ago.

The Redskins did carry approximately $11 million in dead cap money this season, including a combined $5 million from two players who haven't been here since 2015 -- corner Chris Culliver and defensive lineman Stephen Paea. Adding Reed to that list would not be unprecedented. Unlike those two, however, Reed can still play. Culliver had a serious knee issue that affected his ability to play and Paea was not a good fit in Washington's scheme. Even if or when healthy, they weren't going to help the Redskins. That's not the case with Reed.

For what it's worth, left tackle Trent Williams hasn't played a full season since 2013 (last year's issue was the four-game suspension). The most he can play in this season is 13 and he hasn't played more than 14 since 2014. He, too, plays hurt a lot and carries a bigger cap number. But he's also one of the best left tackles in the game and an athletic force whom no one would think about unloading. He, too, carries great importance to the offense.