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Why the New York Jets Made a Big Mistake Signing Ed Reed

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Why the New York Jets Made a Big Mistake Signing Ed Reed
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

It may be all handshakes and smiles right now, but bringing in Ed Reed will prove to be a decision the Jets will regret. 

Adding a player of Ed Reed's stature may seem like a no-brainer decision, but these types of moves are best reserved for your Madden franchise. The truth is, there are a lot more risks involved in bringing in the future Hall-of-Famer than benefits.

The Jets have not simply brought in slower version of Ed Reed; they brought in a player that has been in a steady decline before he was released from the Houston Texans—and everyone except for the Jets has taken notice.

As much as the Jets' secondary has struggled at times this season, adding a player that is just a few months removed from career-altering hip surgery has a better chance of making the unit worse rather than patching it up over seven short weeks. 

 

Just How Bad is Ed Reed Now?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

For roughly a decade, NFL teams have feared to throw in Ed Reed's direction, believing that the propensity for Reed to make a game-changing interception was overwhelming.

Quarterbacks should still be aware of where Reed is, but not because they are still afraid of him. Now, they should actually start targeting him as a weak link in the secondary.

In his 275 snaps as a Houston Texan, quarterbacks have a perfect rating (158.3) when throwing at someone who was once one of the most feared players in NFL history, according to Pro Football Focus. Not only has he has yet to get one of his signature interceptions this year, but he has not even defended a single pass. 

Reed's play caused a severe drop in playing time. By the time he was released, he was averaging less than 40 snaps per game, which is roughly half of a typical snap total for a starter. 

The Texans essentially benched Reed, and for good reason. He was a huge liability in the back end, even when attempting to do what he crafted a Hall of Fame resume on: roaming centerfield, reading the play in front of him and making a play.

Here, Reed dropped into a deep Cover 1 position where he could read and react to the quarterback's eyes:

NFL Game Rewind

Meanwhile, Vernon Davis ran a deep "out" pattern. 

Reed saw Davis getting open and broke to make a play on the ball, but his legs were not moving as fast as his brain. Reed was far too late to the ball, and Davis was left to make the easy catch. 

NFL Game Rewind

On this play, it was Reed's sole job to find a way to get to Davis and limit the damage. However, Reed again overrated his own speed and took a bad angle to the ball. 

Notice how much yardage Reed took up in relation to Davis—Davis ate up nearly twice as much ground as Reed while beating him to the edge. 

NFL Game Rewind

As a result, Reed was left on the turf, while Davis trotted in for the touchdown. 

NFL Game Rewind

It is certainly sad to see such a decorated player abused in this fashion, but this is the reality of what Ed Reed is as a player at this point in his career. Yes, his instincts are still functional, but his legs are a few steps behind what is going on in his head. 

 

Not Addressing the Problem

It is hardly a secret that the Jets' secondary has underperformed this season, but unless Ed Reed can perform like he is five years younger and plays cornerback, adding him to the secondary will do little to solve their problem of allowing too much yardage through the air.

For the most part, the Jets' safeties have been at least satisfactory. The real issue of their pass defense falls on the shoulders of the cornerbacks

The Jets have, arguably, the worst set of starting cornerbacks in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner rank 102nd and 93rd (out of 106), respectively, at their position.

Meanwhile, while the incumbent starter at free safety, Dawan Landry, has been anything but a dominant player, he has at least held his own in preventing big plays from getting worse. Currently ranked as the 17th-best safety in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' rankings, Landry has yielded just a 57.9 completion percentage this season. 

It comes to no surprise that Rex Ryan has already stated that Reed will not be a starter, at least in the short term:

There are plenty of reasons as to why the Jets have been so vulnerable against the pass (especially considering how dominant their defensive line has been), but the safety play is not the area of the team that needs a desperate signing of a fading veteran to stop the bleeding.

 

The Monetary Effect

As of this writing, Ed Reed's contract details have not been officially released, but let's work under the assumption that the Jets got Reed at the veteran's minimum for a player with over 10 years of experience (Reed has 12), which amounts to $940,000 (h/t ProFootballTalk).

This total will be prorated over the next seven weeks, hitting the Jets salary cap for a total of $387,058.

This may not seem like a lot of money, but it is important to remember that any salary cap room not used carries over to the next season. Therefore, the Jets are taking nearly $400,000 out of their pocket next seasonin what should be a somewhat aggressive, rebuilding offseason—for a player who will only make their secondary worse.

Sure, $400,000 is not going to make or break the Jets season in 2014. But $400,000 here and $400,000 there, and all of a sudden, the Jets are taking away room to sign a quality free-agent starter or give extra bonus money to a veteran extension. Remember, they are already paying "extra" contracts to mid-season signings such as David Nelson and Josh Cribbs.

If Reed was truly a difference-maker that could vault the Jets into the playoffs, this money would be well-spent. Based on his play, however, any cost, albeit a small one, is not worth what they are getting in return.

 

Messing With Success

Larry French/Getty Images

Even if Rex Ryan can stretch his defensive genius even further to turn Reed into a serviceable player in a highly-specific role, this signing is a somewhat concerning sign for a team that was in the perfect position through the first half of the season.

Earlier this week, the Jets were young, talented and were operating with seamless chemistry amongst one another. This team was supposed to be rebuilding; the fact that they were 5-4 was a bonus, and any wins they got between now and the end of the season would be gravy.

By signing Reed, the Jets are starting to push their luck with what is a well-balanced, young team. 

The old, desperate Jets under Mike Tannenbaum likely would have signed Reed—after all, they made a similar move when acquiring wide receiver Derrick Mason in 2011. Ironically, Mason was traded to the Texans a month into the season.

Elsa/Getty Images
Derrick Mason's path to the Jets is eerily similar to that of Ed Reed's

While he was nowhere near the caliber of player that Reed was throughout his career, Mason was regarded as a veteran leader with the Baltimore Ravens. In a new environment in New York, Mason reportedly became a "cancer" on his new team. 

This is not to say that Reed will become a self-centered "cancer," but Mason's case is a perfect example of how a veteran that is used to controlling a locker room may not mesh with a new environment. Just like Mason, Reed also had familiarity with head coach Rex Ryan.

After all, Reed has already admitted that he was "not a fit" with the Texans, who was the first team he played for after 11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Jets already have an issue on their hands in dealing with an accomplished player who was not taking his diminishing role on the field well on his former team:

The most concerning aspect of this signing is how the Jets are reverting to their old ways of acquiring "quick fixes" to their problems. Yes, the secondary has not played well through eight games, but acquiring a rapidly regressing player for a young team that has just found its stride is exactly the type of move the previous regime would have made. 

So far, John Idzik has not made many mistakes in his first year as general manager, but this will likely turn out to be one of the few stains on his record in 2013.

 

Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).

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