Reed no longer has the physical ability to play safety in the NFL.
After winning the Super Bowl in his 11th season as a Baltimore Raven, Reed did not receive a competitive offer from the only franchise he had ever played for. So at 35 years old, he replaced the departed Glover Quin in the Houston Texans secondary in an attempt to prolong his career.
Unfortunately for both player and team, the move did not go as planned.
Reed sat out the first two weeks due to a hip injury before finally taking the field in Week 3. Clearly on the decline in his final years as a Raven, the Texan iteration was a shell of his former All-Pro self.
In seven games this season, Reed recorded just 16 tackles; prorated over the rest of Houston's schedule had the team not released him, he was on pace for 32 tackles, which would have been the lowest total in his career. He did not defend or intercept a single pass, and he did not force or recover a single fumble.
Reed was benched for the Week 9 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, failing to get on the stat sheet as Houston fell 27-24. Struggling on a 2-7 team, he voiced his frustrations to ESPN's Tania Ganguli:
"Arizona played their best ball," Reed said. "We played really well outside of certain situations. Certain situations, we just got outplayed and outcoached."
Would he expand? He sure would.
"If you're watching the game, it's not no-brainers," Reed said. "Certain situations we have to get off the field. We need three-and-out. You have to also come out as an offense and move the ball. We can't go three-and-out and put your defense on the field that quick. That drive that they had, I'm looking at it like guys are a little fatigued because I know if you don't control the ball as much, offensively and defensively, you're going to get fatigued. They're going to get plays.
"Eventually, they're going to figure out what you're doing if you're doing the same old things."
His statement hit print Sunday night following the loss. Two days later, he was cut, though Gary Kubiak flatly denied that Reed's postgame chatter had anything to do with the decision.
#Texans' Gary Kubiak on releasing Ed Reed: "It all gets back to football."— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) November 13, 2013
It's an ignominious exit for an eight-time All-Pro, but after seven straight losses since he first suited up, his release was ultimately a football move.
Houston is allowing a respectable 6.7 yards per passing attempt, but it is doing a dismal job forcing turnovers. Not only did Reed fail to record any during his time as a Texan, but his teammates have picked off just four passes this season.
There are just too many holes in the Texans secondary this season, a problem exacerbated by the presence of a slow safety.
During his glory days in Baltimore, Reed was allowed to read the opposing offense and freelance, sometimes significantly altering his positioning prior to the snap. Between that pre-play movement and his unmatched range, he earned a reputation as one of the greatest ball hawks of all time.
He had neither of those luxuries in Houston. His speed was already greatly diminished during Baltimore's Super Bowl run, and he was even slower as a Texan. Playing in a new defense with limited physical ability, he no longer had the privilege of cheating before the snap, lest he work himself out of position.
Nevertheless, Reed is one of the most respected players in the league, so it's likely someone will give him another shot. Per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the veteran defensive back could find a new home in the AFC East.
I continue to hear Rex Ryan is very intrigued by adding Ed Reed, his former player, and Bill Belichick has long championed Reed's skills...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 13, 2013
Both Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan care about locker-room makeup, albeit in very different ways. Regardless, both are relying on multiple young players to carry their respective defense this season, so Reed's leadership could be a valuable addition.
Just don't expect him to be a factor on the field again. His shortcomings were not the result of Houston's system, but of aging.
The safety position is borderline unplayable when foot-speed starts to go. Reed can only provide over-the-top protection now, unable to man up on an athletic receiver himself. And if he tries to play in the box to stop the run, he's toast against play action.
His instincts are great, but his body can't put them to good use anymore. Reed was too slow to play for a floundering Texans team, and he'll still be too slow if he lands on a playoff hopeful.
The ultimate sign of how far he's fallen? Baltimore won't even consider bringing him back now.
John Harbaugh on Ed Reed: 'We're happy with what we have. Our guys are playing well, so that's where we're at.'— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) November 13, 2013
John Harbaugh knows as well as anyone how valuable Reed can be. That Harbaugh won't even consider giving Reed a shot on a 4-5 team speaks volumes to how far he has fallen.
In all likelihood, someone will bring Reed in for the remainder of the season. Even so, that team won't get much out of him; he's not an impact player anymore.