Ed Reed no longer has the skills to match his reputation as one of the best ball-hawking safeties in the NFL. Not at age 35 and not with all the attendant bumps and bruises that go along with playing 11-plus seasons in the most physically demanding sport on earth.
But given the unique set of circumstances that led to Reed's ouster in Houston, where he fell out of favor -- and out of the starting lineup -- Rex Ryan's decision to sign one of the greatest players he's ever coached was an excellent move.
For a defense whose only weakness is defending the pass -- especially the long pass -- it was a no-brainer for Ryan to bring in Reed, who will cost the Jets next to nothing on the salary cap but who can add invaluable experience to the secondary.
Reed is well past his prime, and was even in decline when he helped the Ravens to the Super Bowl title last season. But the wisdom he can now impart to his younger teammates, and his savvy as a field general can still be valuable to a Jets team that already has overachieved and is looking at a realistic possibility of making the playoffs.
This is a low-risk, high-reward move for Ryan, who saw Reed's greatness when the two were together in Baltimore with Ryan a defensive coach before coming to the Jets in 2009. There's no way Reed will perform to the level he was at back then, when he was in the heart of a Hall of Fame career. But Reed knows Ryan's system inside and out, and he can be a valuable piece of the Jets' secondary. Especially in dealing with its biggest shortcoming.
"We've had some issues playing the deep ball," Ryan said Thursday. "Let them throw it there now."
The Jets have allowed eight passes of 40 or more yards, 29 passes of 20 yards or more, and opposing quarterbacks have a combined 90.7 rating. The Jets also have allowed 251.9 passing yards per game, the ninth worst mark in the league. And their 25.7 points allowed per game ranks 21st overall.
So why not bring in an experienced hand like Reed to shore things up, even if he isn't the dominating player he once was?
He's a guy who still can lull quarterbacks into thinking he's going one way and then force the passer to throw to the wrong side. And while he can't run like he used to, Reed can play a role similar to other quality veterans on the back end of their careers.
The Texans had hoped Reed would be that kind of player, but he was a bad fit from the start in Wade Phillips' defense. He signed a three-year, $15-million deal during the offseason, but missed all of training camp and the first two games because of a hip problem. Once he did get into the lineup, he underachieved along with the rest of the Texans' roster. Houston was 0-7 with Reed in the lineup.
It didn't help matters that he openly criticized the coaching after a 27-24 loss to the Cardinals last Sunday.
"Certain situations, we just got outplayed and outcoached," Reed said. "If you're watching the game, it's not no-brainers . . . Eventually, they're going to figure out what you're doing if you're doing the same old things."
Reed was summarily released, although head coach Gary Kubiak, who returned this week after recovering from a mild stroke, said Reed's comments had nothing to do with the decision.
Reed was also outspoken during his run with the Ravens, and last year got into a heated exchange with head coach John Harbaugh because Reed believed the practices were too physical. The two eventually cleared the air, and the Ravens went on a late-season run to win the Super Bowl.
Reed was not re-signed because of his contractual demands, and he took the money with the Texans. But once his time there ended, the most logical destination was the one he chose: with the coach who knows him best and the defensive system that helped make him a star.
"[Reed] is another guy that can turn an interception into a touchdown and make big plays, something that we've been missing," veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "It just speaks for [itself] for what he can bring to the table and what the coaching staff and everybody thought of him. He's a guy that's been a part of this defense for a while, so he knows the defense just as good as anybody else."
A logical choice for the Jets, and a perfect landing spot for Reed.
"Awesome, man. I don't think either one of us was willing to pass this chance up," Reed said of his reunion with Ryan. "It just fit."
Another veteran player for a team and a coach convinced they're ready to make a playoff run.