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Does Ed Reed Make Sense for the Patriots?

Ed Reed (Mitch Stringer/ USA TODAY Sports)

“I know a coach down in New England that loves Ed Reed. When I was in those meetings, we talked about him a lot. He’s a heck of a player, he does a lot of things on and off the field because he’s a leader and he understands the game of football. He needs to go somewhere he doesn’t have to play 70 plays a game; where he can go in there and allow him some time to get healthier and maybe towards the playoffs if he’s feeling real good, stick him in there.”

-Willie McGinest

 “For me, really the only spot that makes sense is New England. You could stockpile him away on the bench, let him heal up. Communication is key for everything that Bill [Belichick] wants to do on defense – that guy has the mouthpiece to make this defense better when it counts. Let him learn what Bill wants to do [and] come Week 16, Week 17, those January games, I guarantee [Reed] will pay dividends.”

-Heath Evans

The comments above, made by Evans and McGinest on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” have set Patriots fans’ hearts aflutter with the idea of Tom Brady’s old nemesis Ed Reed suiting up in blue and red. Is signing Reed really a good idea, though? Evans and McGinest are undoubtedly well-respected and their opinions do deserve some credence, but respect does not make a couple former Pats greats into Ryan Grigson (or Bill Belichick), and that needs to be kept in mind.

As much as we all love and respect Reed and his hobo beard, I question whether or not Reed actually represents a valuable signing for the Patriots. McGinest and Evans make good points, but here are some words I do not see in their statements: Tackles, sacks, interceptions or games played. Unfortunately respect and being a “leader” and “understanding the game of football,” as nice as those platitudes may sound, do not win championships.

Ed Reed is a shell of his former self. In 2012 (note that I am using 2012 stats here because he has played so little in 2013 due to injuries that those stats are useless), he recorded 58 tackles and four interceptions, not terrible numbers but not great either. Those numbers do not tell the whole story, though. Reed was second in the league in broken tackles last year, per Football Outsiders, and his broken tackle rate was highest in the league. Worse, those numbers represent a sharp uptick from his 2011 performance, indicating a player quickly falling from his prime. He also had the eighth-worst run stop rate in 2012 amongst defensive backs with at least 20 plays, an embarrassing 26%. Given the injuries that have rankled him this year with Houston, there is no reason to expect disappointing numbers like those to improve.

There is no doubt that the Pats’ defense leaves a lot to be desired. As we begin to prepare for the playoffs, fans of every team with even the remotest of playoff chances are fantasizing about ways their team could improve those chances. Despite the Pats’ defensive struggles, I have some bad news: Paying too much money for a safety well past his prime will not solve those problems. I, like you, am haunted by the memories of mid-2000’s Ed Reed dominating offenses across the league. That was a long time ago, folks. In 2013, Ed Reed is more of a liability than he is an asset, and the last thing the Patriots need is another liability on defense. I, too, have fanciful ideas of Reed returning to his prime and leading my defense to a Super Bowl; but the reality is that any team that signs Reed is signing an apparition; a player who is at best a shell of his former self. As comforting as those fantasies may be, they are just that: Fantasies. Let another team make the mistake of signing Reed.

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