The Houston Texans and Ed Reed parted ways after the 35 year old veteran had not lived up to Houston's expectations. After hearing of the news, the Jets decided to sign Reed. Reed had a brief meeting with GM John Idzik, and within 30 hours Reed found a new home. The all-pro safety was practicing with Gang Green, and is expected to play against Buffalo on Sunday.
Rex Ryan and Reed have a history together. Rex Ryan worked with the Ravens defense from 1999 until 2009 when he accepted the Jets head coaching job. Reed started all 16 games during his 2002 rookie campaign; a stellar year in which Reed intercepted 5 passes, had one sack, and amassed 85 tackles. Reed would continue to perform well in Baltimore, and by 2005 Ryan was named the team's defensive coordinator. Ryan knows what Reed brings to the table. When asked about what kind of role Reed would play on Sunday, Rex had this to say:
"He’ll be ready to roll. Definitely going to play him. We have definitely a plan for Ed, but can we alter it? Absolutely. We’ll see what happens. During the course of the game, if there are things where we think that he’d give us our best opportunity, then we’ll definitely look at that." (Jets will play Ed Reed at Buffalo; Rex Ryan says, 'He'll be ready to roll' nj.com Slater, Darryl Star Ledger writer)
Ryan has a personal relationship with Reed that better lets him understand the type of player Reed really is. To understand Reed, one needs to understand his career as a whole. The free safety began his football journey at Destrehan High School in Destrehan, Louisiana. He was an all-state defensive back and kick returner who also was a standout track athlete and basketball player. Reed decided to play collegiate football at the University of Miami, a storied program that specialized in producing NFL all-stars.
Reed played under former Miami coaches Butch Davis and Larry Coker. Ed Reed would take a redshirt year as a freshman in 1997. By 1998 he blossomed in to a full fledged starter, leading the team with 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles. Reed was voted as a unanimous first team All-American by 2000. During his 2001 season Reed led the nation with 9 interceptions, returning them for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Hurricanes would defeat the Florida Gators during the 2001 Sugar Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens would select Reed with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2002 draft. He would continue his excellence in Baltimore, winning the AP Defensive Player of The Year award in 2004. During his tenure with Baltimore, Reed was selected to 9 Pro Bowls. He was a member of the Super Bowl XLVII team that defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31.
After winning last year's Super Bowl, the Ravens underwent a major roster change. Legendary linebacker Ray Lewis retired and Joe Flacco made news for signing a massive contract extension. Reed decided it was time to take his talents elsewhere, signing with the Houston Texans during the offseason. He signed a three year $15 million contract that guaranteed him $5 million. Many questioned the signing, citing that Reed was a 35 year old defender who's career was nearing an end. The Texans came into the season with lofty expectations of Reed. Houston's defensive cornerstone Brian Cushing suffered another major injury that ended his season early. The offense struggled to find success with Matt Schaub under center. In simple terms the Texans have played poorly this season. This is applicable to Reed who only managed to play in 7 games for Houston. He tallied 14 tackles and 0 interceptions while playing for Houston.
It is apparent that Reed is a lock for the Hall of Fame, but does he still have anything to offer to an NFL team? The Jets are currently in pursuit of a playoff berth. Coming into the season Rex Ryan's team was pegged as a "cellar dweller" amongst the 32 teams in the league. Gang Green wasn't expected to finish with a winning record, but due to some late heroics by rookie quarterback Geno Smith and stellar defensive play the Jets find themselves sitting at 5-4. The main issues for the Jets have been finding consistency and defending the pass.
While playing for Baltimore, Reed participated in nearly 90% of the team's defensive snaps. This season he was only on the field for about 60% of the Texans defensive stands. Many feel that Reed has lost his speed after undergoing hip surgery. When asked about how he has changed as a player Reed had this to say: "I know I’m held to higher standards because of what I’ve done in the past, but that was the past. I’m a totally different player now." (The Houston Chronicle)
Given the current state of affairs, the Jets should look to implement Reed in defensive packages that will showcase his instinct instead of physical ability. Despite not being as physically imposing as he was in the past, Reed still garners respect amongst NFL quarterbacks who rarely throw in his direction.
Financially speaking, this move is safe. Reed will make the league approved minimum for a veteran: $388,000. Reed may not bring all the physical tools required to be a first string safety, but he does bring experience. He can help groom the current safeties and defensive backs on the Jets roster. Reed is an influential player that will assume whatever role is needed to help the Jets reach the post-season. John Idzik has done an excellent job in utilizing the tools given to him. He would not sign Reed if he felt that it wouldn't benefit the Jets. Reed will go down as one of the best defensive backs to play the game. He most likely won't be remembered for his short tenure in New York, but he will be revered for his tenacity, instinct, and passion for the game.
It would be foolish to say that Reed will be an impact player for Gang Green. Despite the fact that he may not make an impact on the field, Ed Reed has brought a new energy to the Jets locker room. Current players are now graced with the presence of a seasoned veteran. For many defensive backs it would be a dream to play with Reed. Players are raving about the new emotions that are sweeping the locker room. Safety Dawan Landry has been pleased with the positive vibe that Reed's presence has brought saying this about the former Raven and Texan: "(Reed's) presence is already felt, being in the presence of greatness, and we're just excited." (ESPN New York Blog Jane McManus)
Gang Green nation should welcome Reed with open arms. He seems to be optimistic about joining the playoff hopeful Jets, and his new teammates are excited to be in his presence. Hopefully Reed can close his career with grace and pride, similar to the way he began it.