The Washington Redskins took a decent gamble on Thursday afternoon, when they signed off on a huge contract extension for star tight end, Jordan Reed. The deal is reportedly good for five years and $46.5 million, keeping him in D.C. through the 2021 NFL season. Reed gets $22 million guaranteed and ties Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham for the highest average salary for the position.

Special Talent

It’s a great signing on paper, as Reed is among the most talented and versatile tight ends in the league and is fresh off of a career campaign. He caught just about everything thrown his way in 2015, finishing with career highs in receptions (87), receiving yards (952) and touchdowns (11). Part of that had to do with the faith quarterback Kirk Cousins had in one of his best passing weapons, part was due to a strong offensive system initiated by head coach Jay Gruden and the rest is Reed simply being one of the most talented tight ends the league has seen in some time.

Of course, there is some reason for cynicism here. Reed’s career year could have arguably happened a little sooner, except he had both his rookie and sophomore campaigns ended prematurely due to injuries – most notably recurring concussion issues. While Reed only missed two games in 2015, he wasn’t able to finish his rookie season after playing in the first nine games and missed another five contests in 2014. That’s a cool 12 missed games to start his career and 14 total over his first three seasons in the league.

Bad Gamble?

The bet the Redskins are making is that the money they’re investing won’t come back to haunt them. That a 25-year old freak athlete will both stay healthy and continue to be a severe matchup problem for the opposition. Thanks to his rare size/speed/athleticism combination and increased focus and catch success rate, the latter is pretty likely. Likely, of course, if the former doesn’t continue to be an issue.

The difficult thing to trust is Reed’s concussion history, specifically. Redskins Capital Connection took a closer look at his lengthy concussion history back in 2015, and it didn’t look great.

Per the information they provided, Reed has suffered five concussions since joining the Florida Gators in college back in 2011 and has since sustained three concussions in the NFL. On top of that, he’s also had some knee and ankle ailments.

Again, knee and ankle issues can happen to anyone and the real concern, especially with the league’s new concussion protocol, is Reed’s head and whether or not he can keep it on his shoulders.

Reed is a remarkably talent for the position, but the question isn’t if he’s worth the money. It’s if the Redskins have a good chance of seeing a good return on their investment. While Redskins fans will be crossing their fingers extra tight, history suggests this signing could backfire horribly.

Super Bowl Odds

While bad luck and bad contracts can be discussed ad nauseum, the reality is this is a good signing if everything breaks right. If Reed stays on the field and is healthy, he’s going to be a problem for opposing defenses. He will spring big plays, he will keep Washington in games, he will score touchdowns and he will make life easier for Cousins and the rest of the offense. After all, the Redskins did win the NFC East and get back to the playoffs on the heels of this guy’s best season yet. That’s not a coincidence.

The big question is if taking a gamble on Reed is worth it. It’s a valid question considering $22 million in guaranteed money and Reed’s shaky injury history. However, Reed was a huge part of their 2015 success and if the Redskins have realistic hopes of doing anything of merit in 2016 and beyond, it will likely be made possible because of a healthy, effective Reed. Provided he can stay on the field, they could get a massive return on their investment.

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