Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have quite a few similarities. They both play for the Ravens, they both have places saved for them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, they both played college football for the Miami Hurricanes, they were both first-round picks, they're both defensive leaders and they're both huge weapons against any opposing offense.
Another similarity between the two is that they both may be finished with the Ravens after the Super Bowl is played. While Lewis plans to retire, Reed will be an unrestricted free agent and could find himself playing for a new team in 2013.
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Reed, the Ravens' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, has been nothing short of fantastic for the team's defense since he first dawned the purple uniform. After 11 seasons, he has made 605 tackles, sacked opposing quarterbacks six times, accounted for one safety, knocked down 110 passes, picked off another 61 and scored seven touchdowns. He has also forced 11 fumbles, recovered 10 and scored two touchdowns off fumble recoveries. And he has scored a touchdown as a punt returner.
Reed will be an unrestricted free agent once the season comes to an end, and there's a chance that he could be playing for another team in 2013. The Ravens would undoubtedly love to re-sign him, now that it's official that he's not going to retire alongside Lewis, but they also need to re-sign quarterback Joe Flacco to a long-term deal. If they are forced to use the franchise tag on Flacco, and Reed hits free agency, another team may offer more than the Ravens can pay for his services. Of course, if they're able to hash out a long-term deal with Flacco, they could very well use the tag on Reed to keep him around Baltimore for at least one more year. According to the folks at Baltimore Beatdown, the price of a franchise tag on Flacco would cost the team somewhere in the vicinity of $14 million, and using it on Reed would cost Baltimore close to $7 million.
If forced to choose, almost any team would re-sign tag a franchise quarterback before re-signing a safety, even if that safety is a future hall of famer. Flacco has earned a big payday after leading the team to the AFC Championship Game in 2012 and to the Super Bowl in 2013 and, since the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, the Ravens can't afford to get rid of him and start from scratch offensively.
If the Ravens use their tag on Flacco and Reed is able to test the market, there's no question that he would attract some interest from several teams looking to beef up their secondaries with one of the best ball-hawking safeties to ever play the game. There aren't many better ways to combat high-powered offensive teams around the league like the Patriots, Saints, Lions and Broncos, all passing teams, than to sign the kind of safety that has proved over and over again that he can make huge plays in the secondary and single-handedly turn games around.
Teams like the Saints, Giants, Buccaneers and Redskins, who struggled defending the pass and gave up huge plays over and over again throughout the season, could have enough interest in Reed to drive his price up and out of the Ravens' range to re-sign him. Seeing Reed in another uniform in 2013 would be strange for many fans, but it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Furthermore, Reed won't be the only big-named defensive free agent that the Ravens could possibly lose before the 2013 season. Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams are all set to hit free agency and the team's 42 players that are under contract will cost approximately $107.4 million. The lack of money to re-sign Reed, if they're unable to use the tag on him, could be the biggest reason he plays for another team in 2013.
For now, though, Reed is undoubtedly more focused on winning his first Super Bowl. However, free agency will be here before we know it, and Reed could be the biggest name in a long list of players that could be looking for a new home before the upcoming season.