The dark cloud that has settled over the Houston Texans in 2013 has spared no one.
Injuries to running back Arian Foster and linebacker Brian Cushing. Matt Schaub's dumpster-fire season at quarterback. Seven straight losses.
Now the Texans have abruptly cut bait on a future Hall of Famer and their biggest free-agent acquisition. As Tom Pelissero of USA Today reported, Houston is parting ways with veteran free safety Ed Reed.
The question now is whether anyone else wants him.
The 35-year-old Reed signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Texans back in March after 11 years with the Baltimore Ravens. The deal included $5 million in guaranteed money.
For that, the Texans got a cup of coffee. Shortly after joining the team, Reed had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. If his performance on the field after returning was any indication, the surgeon also removed Reed's ability to play football.
Reed appeared in seven games for the Texans, making five starts. He was somewhere between awful and invisible, making only 16 tackles and ranking 144th in the NFL among safeties at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Then came the last straw. Reed, mired on the bench even with starting strong safety Danieal Manning out for the season, was openly critical of the team after last week's loss to the Arizona Cardinals (via Daniel Gotera of KHOU-TV in Houston):
We played really well outside certain situations. In those situations we just got outplayed and outcoached.
If you’re watching the game, there are no-brainers. We need to get off the field; we need those three and outs. But also, as an offense you have to move the ball, you can’t go three and out, puts your defense back on the field that quick.
The drives that they had, I’m looking at it as if guys were a little fatigued. If you don’t control the ball as much offensively, defensively, you’re going to get fatigued. They are going to make plays, eventually they are going to figure out what you’re doing if you’re doing the same old things.
That was enough for the Texans, and now Reed is looking for work.
When a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is suddenly available, it doesn't take long for speculation to start growing as to which teams might be interested:
Let the uninformed Ed Reed speculation begin: Patriots, Bengals, Ravens...— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) November 12, 2013
However, as ESPN's Adam Schefter pointed out, it's unlikely Reed will be claimed off waivers due to the financial implications:
Ed Reed goes on waivers. A team claiming him would owe him $412,000 plus $62,500 for each game he's active, via http://t.co/MLwdbD9kUg.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 12, 2013
ESPN's Calvin Watkins quickly shot down the Cowboys:
I was told Cowboys have no interest in Ed Reed.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) November 12, 2013
Colleague Jamison Hensley did the same for a reunion in Baltimore:
Ravens shouldn't bring back Ed Reed http://t.co/X7KhX30mVu— Jamison Hensley (@HensleyESPN) November 12, 2013
Tony Grossi doesn't even want to hear the Cleveland Browns mentioned:
And that's the rub with Reed. Yes, Reed is a nine-time Pro Bowler who was once one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL.
Will Ed Reed start another game in 2013?
However, someone who had never seen Reed play before this year would probably think he was a feared defensive player in the 1970s. He has been awful in 2013, and given his age, there's no guarantee he'll ever recapture even a fraction of his former glory.
With that said, once Reed clears waivers and we can talk about a veteran minimum salary, someone is going to roll the dice. It's a low-risk, short-term investment, especially for a team that considers itself a playoff contender.
We'll see Ed Reed on an NFL field again, albeit in his third different uniform in under a year. At this point, it's just a matter of waiting to see which uniform it is.
The deeper question is whether we've seen the last of the Ed Reed who was a real difference-maker on a football field.
Given the Ravens' willingness to part ways with Reed and the disaster that was his short tenure with the Texans, the smart money is unfortunately on yes.