After two days of being aggressively recruited by the Houston Texans, veteran free safety Ed Reed left Texas on Friday afternoon without agreeing to terms as he returned to his home in Atlanta.
In what remains a fluid situation with the two sides still haggling over money and not so far off financially that doing a deal would be unrealistic, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year plans to contemplate his options over the weekend while attending to a previous obligation unrelated to football.
Reed is seeking a contract ranging from $6 million to $7 million per year, and the Texans' proposal is at roughly a $5 million annual average, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
Talks aren't expected to advance again until the NFL owners meetings that start Monday in Arizona. Reed was paid $7.2 million last season in the final year of his Ravens contract.
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One source said that Reed's agent, David Dunn, is shopping the Texans' offer around the NFL.
The Ravens have kept tabs on the situation by remaining in contact with Reed's representatives. Although the Super Bowl champions still hold interest in Reed, 34, their tight salary-cap situation and his asking price makes him returning to Baltimore far from a lock, per a source.
The Ravens didn't stand pat Friday as Reed was in Houston. They reached an agreement in principle with former Dallas Cowboys starting defensive end Marcus Spears on a two-year, $3.55 million contract.
Spears, 30, is slated to take a physical and sign his contract within the next three days.
As for Reed, his six-year, $44.5 million contract expired after the season and he became an unrestricted free agent.
Reed was impressed with the Texans' sales pitch and felt comfortable with the AFC South organization during his two-day visit, per sources close to the situation.
And Reed delivered that sentiment via his verified Twitter account while heading to the airport, writing: "Houston is a good city, great time with everyone!"
Reed was ferried to Houston with general manager Rick Smith on Texans owner Bob McNair's private jet, dining Thursday night with coaches and former University of Miami teammates: wide receiver Andre Johnson, one of his closest friends, and center Chris Myers.
Johnson told Houston reporters, including the Houston Chronicle, on Friday that he remains upbeat about the Texans' chances of signing Reed.
“Ed said, ‘Get me to Houston,’ ” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to get it done. Everything is positive. He’s a good friend and a great player. He’s a great leader and a ball hawk. I’d love to have him be part of our organization.”
Despite an aggressive push to land Reed, it didn't result in the quick deal that many expected.
Whether Reed, who intercepted four passes last season and picked off San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl in his home state of Louisiana, goes on other visits remains unclear.
The Indianapolis Colts, coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, have already addressed the safety position by signing LaRon Landry. The 49ers have met with Louis Delmas and Charles Woodson, but Delmas returned to the Detroit Lions on a two-year deal.
The 49ers, whose head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and general manager, Trent Baalke, are, like Reed, represented by Dunn have yet to bring in Reed for a visit, but are regarded as a potential suitor for the nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
For now, the Texans are the focus for the Reed camp.
And the Ravens are intent on finding bargains that fit into their budget.
That includes continuing to hold dialogue with former Pittsburgh Steelers star outside linebacker James Harrison, according to his agent, Bill Parise.
Former Ravens strong safety Dawan Landry is another possible link for the Ravens after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Spears is a 2005 Cowboys first-round draft pick who was selected 20th overall out of LSU.
He was cut this year after signing a five-year, $19.2 million contract in 2011.
Spears, 30, has 226 career tackles and 10 sacks with three forced fumbles. Last season, he had 25 tackles and a sack in six starts.
A natural 3-4 defensive end at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Spears was released after the Cowboys hired defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and changed their primary base defense to a 4-3 front.
The move reunites Spears and Canty after both entered the NFL with the Cowboys eight years ago.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made strengthening the defensive line a priority and has already signed former New York Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty to a three-year, $8 million contract since the start of free agency.
“The base of a good defense is to be good along the defensive line,” Newsome said in a statement. "We didn’t play to our standards last season, partly because of injury. With the expected better health of players like Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and the additions of Marus Spears and Chris Canty, we have a chance to improve.
"Spears, like Canty, can play multiple positions along the line. He brings a lot of snaps and big game experience to us. We like the way Marcus plays. He will fit in with the Ravens way of playing.”
Meanwhile, tight end Dennis Pitta, who was assigned a second-round tender of $2.023 million, was the subject of two preliminary inquiries from NFL teams, according to sources.
Because Pitta wasn't assigned the first-round tender of $2.879 million, the Ravens are slightly vulnerable should another team submit an offer sheet. They own the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet. If they didn't opt to match, and no one has submitted an offer at this time, they would be compensated with a second-round draft pick.
The restricted free agent market is notoriously dead, but NFL teams do have a high opinion of Pitta.
It's unclear if the interest of teams will translate into any action regarding Pitta, though.
The Miami Dolphins, who had a high grade on Pitta coming out of BYU, filled their tight end spot with former New York Jets starter Dustin Keller on Friday.
The 49ers are another team believed to be interested in addressing the tight end position.
No offer sheet has been submitted for Pitta, though.
Pitta is a young player the Ravens would ideally like to sign to a long-term deal in the future.