It was obvious from any cool-headed assessment, even his own, that Ed Reed's time in Houston wasn’t headed for a happy ending.
That said, I was still startled for a second when I heard the Texans planned to release him after just seven games. It’s simply not the expected ending for an athlete as inspired as Reed was only a few seasons ago. And Houston had put on such a push to woo him last summer.
But the NFL is a cold league, probably the least sentimental in American sports. The Texans saw in Reed a guy who was no longer good enough to start for them but who still had the ego to critique his coaches’ performance publicly. That’s an easy cost-benefit analysis for a franchise grasping for its identity.
Perhaps this was always Reed’s destiny. Every season, he seemed to make headlines with a moment of uncomfortable honesty. This made him fascinating to follow but also a pulse-quickener for coaches with little use for locker-room intrigue. Of course, Reed was so good and such an established mentor to younger players that the Ravens swallowed his eccentricities for 11 seasons.
Like Ray Lewis and a few others, he carried great-player privileges. The bargain worked out for everyone. But when you’re not great anymore and you’re playing in a new town where you haven’t built a cushion of good will, those privileges vanish in a hurry.
I’ve written before that Reed was the most fascinating Raven I’ve watched or covered. I enjoyed the crazy electricity around him as he finally won a Super Bowl ring in his hometown of New Orleans. I was happy that he scored one last pay day — he has already collected $5.5 million — with the Texans.
I also thought the Ravens were smart not to bid for his services. It’s hard to imagine them bringing Reed back. At safety, they have a bargain standout in James Ihedigbo and an improving No. 1 draft pick in Matt Elam. Ozzie Newsome and Co. already decided not be sentimental about reassembling last year’s team. There’s no reason to think that would change now.
As for Reed, who admits his play has slipped, this would be a fine ending. His legacy and likely induction to the Pro Football of Fame are secure. He bought himself extra financial security on the way out. He needn’t keep going unless that’s what he wants.
His partial season in Houston wouldn’t be a happy last chapter. But when you look at the whole story — the kid who got his life together in high school and became a rare genius at his position in the NFL — it wouldn’t be a sad one either.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun