Thinking about the Baltimore Ravens without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed seems unfathomable, as the duo have been stalwarts on the defense since Reed came into the NFL in 2002. With the retirement of Lewis and the unrestricted free agency of Reed, that unfathomable notion may soon be a reality.
Reed had another solid season at safety, earning his ninth Pro Bowl selection. Only two safeties had more interceptions than Reed’s four picks, and he led all safeties with 16 passes defended.
In regards to the big picture, Reed has been a ball-hawking staple on the Ravens’ defense for years. His list of accomplishments is as impressive as they get for a safety. Reed holds the all-time record for most interception return yards in NFL history, and also owns the two longest interception returns for a touchdown in league history. He led the NFL in interceptions three times and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the 2004 season.
Reed’s defensive prowess is not limited to the regular season, as he has quite a postseason resume as well. Reed has nine postseason interceptions, which is tied for the most in NFL history. The Ravens’ championship this season finally gave Reed a Super Bowl to add to his Hall of Fame resume.
However, Reed will be 35 when next season rolls around and his price tag will not be small. Reed made $7.2 million last season and expects to make a similar amount as he negotiates a new contract.
Reed has stated he wants to remain a Raven, but the Ravens’ salary cap issues may not allow them to re-sign Reed at such a price. The Ravens would like to think Reed would give them a bit of a hometown discount, but coming off a Pro Bowl season, other teams will no doubt be interested in such a game breaker. If a team like the New England Patriots come a knocking, especially with a juicy deal, Reed may be forced to leave Baltimore.
There is no doubt both Reed and the Ravens want to get something worked out, as it seems fitting that Reed retire a Raven like Lewis did. With other key unrestricted free agents like Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams also needing to be re-signed, Reed will have to be flexible with his negotiations.
Like the Joe Flacco deal, hopefully Reed and the Ravens can reach a cap-friendly number that will keep Reed a Raven while also allowing Baltimore to re-sign other important free agents.
Picturing Reed in any other uniform seems unthinkable. If the Ravens lose Reed the same off-season as Lewis, it would be a seismic change for a franchise looking to defend their championship. If Reed really wants to retire a Raven, he will find a way to fit into the Ravens’ tight budget. If that notion isn’t truly important to him, expect Reed to be playing elsewhere next season.
Either way, expect general manager Ozzie Newsome to do everything in his power to keep Reed in purple and black for the remainder of his illustrious career.
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