After the recent release of safety Ed Reed by the Houston Texans, it's been thrown around quite a bit by the fan base that the San Diego Chargers should sign him. After getting a good look at him this year, I don't think he's the answer for this team, as bad as that may sound. It pains me to say this, because Reed is without question one of my favorite players to watch of all-time. The things he's done on the football field in the past are truly special. He's the best safety I've ever seen.
That said, we have to realize which Reed the team would be acquiring. As well as he played from 2008-11 (and, obviously, before then) he's a shell of his former self. This year he suffered a hip injury in the 2nd quarter of the 49ers game in Week 5, and hasn't been the same since.
2-3 Steps Slower
If you watch this first example, Reed knows what's coming, he's jumped this route over and over throughout his career. He still has the awareness, you don't lose that, but it's just clear he doesn't have the speed to jump the routes he used to.
In this next example, Reed is the single high safety and is responsible for man coverage on the tight end. It's supposed to be disguised pre-snap, and he knows that. It just again shows that he's unable to get to where he needs to be.
In this last example from the 49ers game, the Texans are in a 2-man look. Reed only has one threat to his side, and the quarterback stares down his target. 2010 Reed picks this pass off and runs it back for a touchdown. This year's version of Reed takes a poor angle, is late, and doesn't affect the pass.
Against the Chiefs, early in the game, he got caught flat-footed as Donnie Avery ran right by him. It should have been a touchdown, but because of Kansas City's quarterback, it was a safe pass was to a check-down receiver.
What has been one of the major issues of the 2013 Chargers defense? Missed tackles. Reed does not help this defense out in that regard. He's a poor tackler, or at least is this year. He's not exactly willing in run fits, and when he is, THIS HAPPENS.
Before the season started, I wrote about how the tackling on this team was atrocious. While it hasn't gotten better, Reed certainly wouldn't help the cause. Per PFF's tackling efficiency safety rankings this year, out of 86 possible players, Marcus Gilchrist (who would likely be replaced by Reed) is ranked 20th, while Reed is ranked 74th. Ed missed a jaw-dropping 22.2% of his tackles this year as a Texan.
His Fit in the Defense
Reed isn't a complete liability, by any stretch. He still is capable of making plays. He can still read the QB and take routes away. Meanwhile, Marcus Gilchrist is a much better player when he plays closer to the line of scrimmage. It's almost like night and day with Glichrist in that regard.
Knowing that, Reed would be an upgrade if used correctly. At this point in his career, Reed is best suited as the deep safety, away from the line of scrimmage, with a good supporting cast to make up for his downfalls.
Which is exactly why he's not a good fit. Expecting the much maligned John Pagano to use a player to his strength is like expecting the Chargers to just all the sudden feature Ladarius Green in the offense. It's not going to happen. If signed, Reed would likely be asked to make stops in the box, cover tight ends, and do every other thing he's not known for.
Reed still plays with a gambler's mentality. That's why I think he'd be a better fit on a defense with a good supporting cast. When he's the single high safety, he'll sometimes jump a route over the intermediate middle of the field, exposing his corners to coverage with no help. While this might work when you have guys like Johnathan Joseph, or Ladarius Webb on your team. The Shareece Wright's and Derek Cox's of the world just can't operate under those circumstances.
Wright often gets caught flat-footed, and gets beat deep, whereas Cox has bad technique all around. So if either of these two were to be exposed, the defense would be even worse, if that's imaginable.
Is He Worth Signing?
From a money standpoint, sure. Reed is owed roughly $400,000 of his salary for the rest of the year. This would certainly give San Diego some flexibility on defense. In their dime defense, they like to have Gilchrist and Jahleel Addae up top. With Reed, they could (or should) slide Gilchrist to the outside, move Wright inside to slot, and Reed would play over the top instead of Gilchrist .
If the Chargers are to win a few games, this might be something to think about. However, the risks I mentioned earlier make me realize Reed isn't worth signing. Not at this point.
There's no guarantee he will be able to stay healthy for the remainder of the season. He's shown that he will leave his corners out to dry by guessing on routes. He is a few steps slower, so he's no longer the playmaker he once was. As much as it pains me to say it, Ed Reed can not help the Chargers in 2013.