Archive for January, 2013

Ed Reed announces he is playing in 2013, what that means moving forward


Legendary Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed put all the media speculation to rest today, when he announced that he will in fact be playing the 2013 season in the first Q and A session in the lead up to Super Bowl XLVII. Many immediately said that was great to hear, but questioned if he would be playing in a Ravens uniform, or for another NFL team considering his impending free agency. Of course, immediate panic ensued about how team x y or z will be paying him huge money and he is all but gone from the Ravens organization.

Not so fast.

Let’s look at the facts of the situation. Reed will be 35 years old when the 2013 season starts, an age when most players and long gone from their NFL career. He has also battled nerve impingement issues in his neck the past few years, and missed significant time because of the injury. As anyone who watches Reed can tell you, at this point in his career he is a deep coverage safety only, and does little to nothing to help in the run game.

Now don’t get me wrong, Reed is STILL one of the best centerfielders in the league and strikes fear in opposing QB’s, but teams just aren’t going to line up to pay a 35 year old anything in the NFL unless it is a HOF quarterback. It just doesn’t happen, no matter how great the player once was or still is perceived to be.

Look no further than the last Ray Lewis free agency ordeal, I remember it very well. Ray was going into his age 35 season, had no real injury concerns unlike Reed, and guess what he found out when he hit the open market? That the team in Baltimore valued him more than the other 31 teams in the league, by a wide margin. His representation tried to do his best to drum up interest, leak false stories to the media about the infamous “$25 million guaranteed” on the table from the Dallas Cowboys, but in the end it was all smoke and mirrors to create a market that just wasn’t there.

The simple fact of the matter is at 35 years old you are living on borrowed time in the NFL, even as one of the all time greats like Lewis and Reed. Teams just are not going to commit the type of guaranteed money or years that everyone thinks with a player of that age. A player with a long history of neck issues to add on top of that? Not happening. I mean who would have thought that one of the greatest defensive players of all time would have to come crawling back to the Ravens in the end after his free agency tour? The Ravens sure did.

Another situation that is eerily similar to that of Reed and can be looked at as a reference point, is  when safety Brian Dawkins became a free agent at age 35 after an illustrious career with the Eagles. Ironically Dawkins was also dealing with a neck injury, but Denver took a gamble signing him to a 5 year 17.5 million contract (in reality it was a 2 year deal for $9 million with a bunch of incentives built in). They gave him 7.2 million guaranteed, and he gave them one good season and was pretty much done after that. He battled injuries his last 2 years with Denver, barely got on the field and eventually retired.

That said, the Dawkins contract could very well be used as a template for a deal Reed might get. The comparisons between the two players are strikingly similar right down to the injury, age and how beloved each are in the city they played in. A 5 year deal for around that $17 million number, with some incentives added in if he does happen to defy father time, is a very real possibility. If the Ravens gave him the $7.2 million in guarantees Dawkins got, they could easily protect themselves if Reed for whatever reason didn’t last much longer. Also, a deal like that would give Reed the opportunity to earn much more if he did stay healthy for a few more years. Obviously this is not the type of deal Reed wants, but as mentioned earlier he has very little leverage for more money at this point in his career.

One other option that has been talked about is the franchise tag for Reed, which is only 6.8 million for the  franchise tag, and 5.9 million for the transition tag at the safety position. The problem with that is Reed, whose cap number was 8.5 million in 2012, would get 120% of that number if the Ravens placed the franchise or transition tag on him.

The rule is that whatever the higher number is, either the average of the top 5 salaries at the players position, OR 120% of the previous years salary, is what the tag cap number will be. In Reed’s case the 120% is much higher, so his cap number under the franchise tag would be 10.2 million. So for anyone who entertained the notion of the franchise tag, at 10.2 million it obviously is not an option for Reed.

The Ravens will proceed exactly how they approached the Lewis free agency, tell Reed to go out and see exactly what the market will bear for his services, and then come back and negotiate based on the interest he receives. Just like with Lewis the Ravens know that Reed will be sorely disappointed in what he hears from other teams, realize his legacy in Baltimore carries a value that no other team can put a number on, and that the he has the most value in Baltimore where the Ravens will covet him the most.

This game can be very unkind to older players, even the all time greats. Usually what they think they are still worth at age 35, and what they are actually worth is usually two completely different stories. Teams would rather invest the time and money in a much younger guy who might be on the team for 10 years, not one or two. Anything can happen of course, and some team could defy all logic and break out the checkbook, but history suggests that is extremely unlikely for a player of Reed’s “experience”.

Let’s just hope that experience pays dividends on Super Bowl Sunday, I have a feeling it might. And it would certainly help Reed’s case for more money, that is for sure. But probably just a little bit.

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