His role is far from set, and he'll be in for a fight just to carve out playing time, but fourth-year wide receiver David Reed seems to be a player the Baltimore Ravens are excited about as they continue to search for ways to fill the void left by the departure of Anquan Boldin.
Reed was a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2010. He's seen only minimal playing time at receiver to this point of his career, but he's a player who showed flashes of potential at the position late last season, a player who coach John Harbaugh said in March could be on the verge of a breakthrough season and a player who Baltimore thought highly enough of to sign to a two-year contract worth $2.5 million early last month.
And remember, when Reed was drafted, he was a player whose skill set was compared by some to former Ravens receiver Brandon Stokley. Stokley, of course, has been one of the more productive slot receivers in the NFL for much of the last decade.
"He signed a two-year deal that we thought was reasonable and gives him a chance to prove himself," Harbaugh said of Reed at the NFL's league meetings in March. "He's a guy that's been around for three years now and he's worked really hard and overcome some injuries. And guys come into their own. You know, you look at Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and those guys. I think David has got a chance to be one of those guys that really comes into his own right now. He's really motivated right now."
Reed spent the first 11 weeks of last season on the physically unable to perform list as he worked back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that ended his 2011 season, but he was activated in late November and, as he had done during his first two years in the NFL, once again proved valuable on special teams.
He had four special teams tackles in the five regular season games he played in.
He also impressed in limited action on offense. He had two catches for 22 yards during the Ravens' December loss to the Denver Broncos and had three catches for 44 yards in Baltimore's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in its regular season finale, a game he saw his first extensive playing time at wide receiver as the Ravens rested most of their offensive starters.
Reed didn't catch a pass during either of his first two NFL seasons, but he picked up 31 yards on two carries and posted 15 tackles on special teams, including 11 as a rookie in 2010. He also averaged 29.5 yards on 39 kick returns during his first two years in the league and had a then-Ravens-record 103-yard kick return for a touchdown in 2010.
"[David] has already proven that he can be a real good [special] teamer for us as a returner on kickoffs and as a cover guy," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said at Baltimore's pre-draft luncheon last week. "But, when he got the opportunity to play some more offense, he showed some quickness, he showed the ability to get open, and he made the catch when that opportunity was presented. ...
"So, if he could just stay healthy and get through this offseason program, get into training camp, then I think we're all looking to see what David can do for us this year."
For Reed, though, it just feels good to be going through an offseason that doesn't involve some sort of lengthy rehabilitation.
"This is actually my first offseason since I've been in the NFL where I haven't had a surgery or anything," Reed said during a phone interview. "It's wonderful. I love it. I feel good. I get to do everything the team is doing. It's my first time being able to do that and it feels wonderful."
Torrey Smith is entrenched as a starter on one side for the Ravens, and Jacoby Jones is expected to once again play a primary role at receiver as well, but Reed will be part of a competition with 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss, second-year player Deonte Thompson and others, as well as any potential additions through the draft or free agency, for playing time at the position.
"We've got some great, great young receivers and I feel we've all got a great shot to play and it's going to be a great battle during this offseason. ...
"A job's up for grabs and it's up to someone to take it, and I'm going to be in there giving all I've got. I'm very confident in my game at receiver and I'm ready to showcase it. ... I'm ready to step it up another level."