A few weeks ago, I speculated here that the Ravens and Ed Reed would figure out a way to enable the future Hall of Fame safety to end his career where it should end, in Baltimore.
My mistake in assessing the situation was figuring emotions would come into play in the giddy aftermath of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory. Boy, was that wrong. Both sides were about as emotional as a CPA at tax time. If they were ever misty about their possible divorce, they weren't misty for long.
When it became official earlier this week that Reed was moving to Houston to play for the Texans, my initial response was it was a shame one of the greatest Ravens ever had to finish his career in another uniform. The numerous other personnel moves the Ravens are making are just moves, perhaps upsetting but still just routine transactions in the salary cap era, but Reed's departure is different, personal, a slug in the gut.
But now that it's happened, it's quite clearly for the best for both Reed and the Ravens.
Reed found a team willing to give him quite a bit more money than the Ravens wanted to pay a going-on-35-year-old in the November or December of his career. In the months preceding his becoming an unrestricted free agent, it wasn't clear Reed would be able to command such a payday, but he did, and the statement that makes obviously was just as important to him as the money, so good for him.
Also, his work was kind of done in Baltimore. Can we just say that? The franchise's second Super Bowl triumph allowed Reed to check off the one lingering accomplishment he had not attained as an iconic Raven. In the end, his years of being a pro's pro on and off the field did contribute to satisfying everyone's ultimate goal. Mission accomplished.
Now, conveniently, another team wants him to help them try to climb the same mountain, presenting him with a new and interesting late-career opportunity. We will see how he fares, whether he stays healthy and impacts the Texans as they envision, but either way, with the Ravens boldly electing to enter a new era, Reed simply was a better fit there.
The Ravens surely could have retained him if they had wanted. But Ray Lewis' retirement threw open the window for transition that the franchise had been eyeing for several years, knowing it was coming. Life without Ray? Life without Ed? It's going to be weird, jarring, probably disturbing at times. But the time to take it on has come.
Honestly, it's hard to argue with their logic. Even though they won the Super Bowl, the Ravens were no longer formidable on defense in 2012, even with their thirtysomething titans still in place. They ranked 20th in the league against the run and 17th against the pass, allowing more yards per game in the air (228.1) than they had allowed in any season since 1997. That's not how you put yourself in position to win from week to week in what is now a pass-oriented league.
It's tempting to absolve Reed because he is so historically great, but the fact is, he was on the field, a key part of the defense that simply hung on in many games. While still a huge locker room presence, wonderful leader, and forbidding center fielder, his tackling was suspect and he was no longer the extraordinary playmaker of legend, totaling nine interceptions in his last 40 regular-season and postseason games in Baltimore.
So in the end, with all emotion coldly but necessarily excised from their decision-making, the Ravens made a call. They're flipping over their secondary, bringing in new blood. It's time to get younger, faster and cheaper, time to jump through that window of transition they knew would open eventually, for better or worse.
It's a shame Reed couldn't stay in Baltimore and go out as he came in, wearing purple, but the Ravens stuck to their principles and avoided letting their emotions seep into the equation. They made the adult decision, and though painful, the result is best for both sides.