Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been handfuls of all-time great running backs and receivers. But so rarely does a safety come along and truly forever impact the position. Fortunately, this generation had the pleasure of witnessing one of the greatest to ever perform in Baltimore Ravens defensive back Ed Reed.
For a decade now, Reed has been one of the most terrorizing defenseman in the NFL.
One of the most common misconceptions surrounding Reed's career is that he was part of the 2000 Ravens championship team. As one of the most acclaimed defenses of all-time, many forget that Reed was still attending class, wearing green and orange on Saturdays.
In 2001, Reed started for the BCS National Champion Miami Hurricanes -- a team that featured a slew of eventual NFL superstars.
In the 2002 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected Reed with the 24th overall pick. Immediately after joining Ray Lewis' title-winning Ravens, Reed started 16 games a rookie. In his first year in the league, he racked up 85 tackles and five interceptions.
And the scary thought is that Reed only got better as the years went on.
His 61 career interceptions place him 10th on the list among the all-time leaders. He is in a rare class with players like Ronnie Lott, Night Train Lane, Rod Woodson, Dick LeBeau and Paul Krause. As a eight-time All-Pro, Reed is the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown on a punt, a blocked punt, an interception and a fumble recovery.
And as of 2012, no one in league history has more interception return yards than Reed (1,541).
He set the standard for playmaking safeties in the league, revolutionizing the position with his metaphysical instincts. His innate ability to find the ball -- either tracking it in the air or stripping it -- has made him the one-of-a-kind player he is. After joining an organization that won games with brute defense, Reed added a whole new dimension.
He became a player that was going to give this team an edge on the scoreboard by putting the offense in a favorable position. Reed has single-handedly won games for this organization, either by changing the tempo or scoring the points himself.
After a decade in the league, Reed finally won his first Super Bowl in 2012. He even had an interception in his first appearance in the big game.
As we look toward 2013, the Ravens are entering a new era that features quarterback Joe Flacco as the centerpiece of the organization. And while Reed may forever be a Raven at heart, he may look to the free agent market for new opportunities.
At age 34, Reed may want to sign with a contender that is in less of a transitional phase. A team like the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, or San Francisco 49ers could come calling. These are highly competitive teams that could use a playmaking safety like Reed, if only for one year.