Since the traumatizing end to the Chiefs 2013 season, there’s no position I’ve wanted to see improvement in more than safety.
True, late in the 2013 campaign there were defensive breakdowns across the backfield, and cornerback is also a concern. But, the safety’s role is to ensure that one blown coverage isn’t an instant TD for the opponent. They’re there to at least slow the opponent down in a shootout and make sure a 28-point playoff collapse can’t happen.
For the record, I’m very high on both the Chiefs’ starting safeties — perennial Pro-Bowler Eric Berry and rising star Husain Abdullah. Where I have zero confidence is in the Chiefs current safety depth. Going into training camp behind the starters, were 2013 draft pick Sanders Commings, and three guys who have never started in the NFL — Jerron McMillian a career backup at Green Bay and UDFA’s Daniel Sorenson and Malcolm Bronson.
Yesterday, Berry hurt his ankle, though it appears not seriously, and Commings — the team’s only backup that was more than a camp body — broke his ankle and went off to surgery. The team has since reportedly signed journeyman safety Steve Gregory, but have not yet made the requisite roster move to officialize the signing. Much of the chatter points to the Chiefs putting Commings on IR once again. This seems to be at best a lateral move.
If there is any position group that is in crisis for the Chiefs, this is it.
While I would normally never advocate for signing a player in what is likely the last leg of his professional career over young developmental players, I think now is the time for Ed Reed to put on the red and gold.
Reed’s best days are most certainly behind him and he may never actually start for the Chiefs if he were signed — in fact, barring injuries, he shouldn’t. But if the Chiefs want some reliable veteran depth, I can’t think of anyone better. As Abdullah himself said in the aforelinked video, the Chiefs suffered some major communication breakdowns late last season. Furthermore, it was clear that once the defense was no longer dictating the pace of the game and the DB’s suddenly had to hold together for the full 60 minutes, this young backfield made egregious mental errors.
I know that the 2014 Reed is not a world-beater, all-pro. What Reed can be, however, if he is forced onto the field, is the guy who you can trust to make the correct first step at the snap, to be general who will make sure everyone is lined up properly and hold the squad together mentally. That is what I felt was most lacking late last year — an experienced guy who can make the overall squad better and will at least save the big play from becoming a big touchdown.
His benefits would not only be on the field. Every safety currently on the roster — including Berry — could benefit from having Reed in the film room and on the sidelines with them. He’s arguably the best safety in the history of the game, and his knowledge is bound to rub off on the team’s young and developing safety group.
During just a two-week stint with the Jets at the end of last season, the players still raved at his mental impact on the other players.
“It was big when we had Ed Reed here,” said inside linebacker Demario Davis, who had a monster practice on Wednesday. “He showed us how to really watch film. The big thing he told us was, you know, you learn something, you see something, just trust what you see.”
Every player and coach in the league watches film. But Brian Billick, Reed’s head coach for six seasons with the Ravens, said that from the time Reed entered the league, he had an uncommon gift for seeing things others weren’t seeing on film.
“Ed was maybe the most intellectual player I’ve ever had,” said Billick, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “Ed’s as good as anybody I’ve ever had at being able to sit, look at a film, and pull something out that’s tangible.”
Best of all, Reed will be cheap. Other than his short stint as a stopgap for the Jets, he’s seen little to no interest since being released by the Texans last November. Although it was a down year for him and he was clearly overpaid, it was also pretty clear that his release stemmed from his sounding off in public about the team being “outplayed and out coached.” I’m definitely not a fan of players throwing their coaches and teammates under the bus, but can you think of a team that underachieved more than the Texans last year?
At this stage of his career, what the 35-year-old Reed needs is to join a playoff team that he can make better. Given that no one else has sought his services, he’s already making about $2.7 million in guaranteed money from the Texans and there are few places where he’d have a better chance of seeing the field than in Kansas City, I bet the team could get him for little more than the veteran minimum.