Eisenberg: Expect Ed Reed Back In Baltimore


The segment was nearing an end, a commercial approaching, when the radio talk show host tossed me a serious question.

"OK, yes or no, Ed Reed plays for the Ravens in 2013," he said.

It's a key issue facing the Ravens in the wake of their Super Bowl-winning season, and as always with Reed, his situation is complex, nuanced, in need of explanation. But I had no time for that.

"Yes," I said.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking with it.

No, it doesn't stem from inside information channeled from the safety's lips to my ears. I'm just going with what my eyes tell me.

It seemed to me that no player found the Ravens' Super Bowl ride more meaningful or enjoyable than Reed. He serenaded crowds with "Two Tickets to Paradise." He held the Vince Lombardi Trophy aloft during the parade and let fans handle it. He basked in his status as an elder statesman of all things purple, cheered and revered both in and out of the locker room.

So now that he's a pending unrestricted free agent, he's just going to walk away from all that, from the place where he matters most, and finish up his Hall of Fame career with a couple of years in, say, Indianapolis?

I'm having trouble seeing it.

Oh, I understand there's a chance I'm wrong, that anything is possible under the salary cap. I understand that money, not emotion, tends to rule, and that Reed's situation is merely part of the team's complex cap puzzle, inexorably tied to Joe Flacco's situation and those of the Ravens' other free agents, and thus, inherently unpredictable.

I also understand there have been times in the past few years when both Reed and the Ravens wondered whether he would play for the team beyond this season. Reed wasn't happy that he failed to get a contract extension, that signing younger players such as Ray Rice was deemed a higher priority. And the Ravens bit their tongues when Reed missed a few tackles and made a few comments they regretted.

But it seemed to me that both sides put all that behind them in the past month and recognized how important it was, how right it was, for them to be together.

"He realizes there may be some other options out there, but I think if you watched his body language over the course of the last eight to 10 days that he loves being here in Baltimore, and I think we can use that to help make the relationship last a little bit longer," Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said shortly after the Super Bowl.

I couldn't agree more. In some respects, Reed is an open book. When he's unhappy about something, you can see it in his eyes. But when he's happy, the whole world can see it. And he seemingly has never been happier than he was in the past month.

He also is still playing high-quality football, even if, by his own admission, he isn't the player he once was. But while he might not be forceful against the run, he's still highly effective in pass coverage. Throughout the playoffs, opposing quarterbacks avoided throwing his way simply because he was back there, threatening to change the game.

It was entirely appropriate that he intercepted a pass in the Super Bowl, given how he has played the game for more than a decade.

He certainly has a place in the makeup of the team going forward. With Ray Lewis gone, there is a leadership void on defense, and Reed is the natural heir, as respected as any player. The Ravens just won a Super Bowl with him in center field, and having him back there again in 2013 would help provide the continuity that is going to be needed post-Lewis.

The Ravens get it. And so does Reed, I believe. While he made headlines at the Super Bowl saying he wouldn't mind playing for Bill Belichick, he also said repeatedly that Baltimore was by far his first choice and he hoped it worked out.

I'm guessing it does.

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