COMMENTARY| No one should expect Ed Reed to discover the fountain of youth and transform into the ball-hawking dynamo that marked his career with Baltimore Ravens, but that doesn't mean that Reed has nothing left to offer a team in the mix for the postseason.
Reed has victimized the Cincinnati Bengals enough over his career to certainly compel the team's front office to review the possibility that Reed should be at the very least summoned to work out. The memory of his 337 return yards on 10 interceptions and three pick-sixes in 19 games against the Bengals deserves at least that much.
Just Another Thirty-Something
Reed wouldn't be the only 35-year-old in the Bengals secondary. Cornerback Terence Newman is also 35 and has enjoyed an absolute resurgence in the twilight of his career with the Bengals under coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Safety Chris Crocker is 33 years old. He was signed as a street free agent after the start of the season and has played a lot of slot safety in pass coverage.
Reed would also be joining another former Bengals' AFC North foe-turned-friend in linebacker James Harrison, who has played well in a limited but recently expanding role for the AFC North leading Bengals. Harrison is also 35 years old.
Whether or not Redd can handle the rigors of NFL games as well as these older Bengals have remains to be seen, but age alone won't keep the Bengals from considering Reed.
Reed would have to be willing to accept a limited role the way Harrison has. The Bengals have a tandem of outstanding starting safeties in Reggie Nelson and George Iloka. There's no way Reed approximates Iloka in run support or matches the overall pass coverage skills of Nelson, but there would be room for Reed and his ball-hawking skills downfield.
An injury to Crocker would force the Bengals to use Nelson in slot and tight end coverage more, which would mean Reed could be inserted deep in the defensive backfield where he would have some room to roam to do what he does best.
Reed would provide the Bengals with depth that they are currently lacking should injury occur to Crocker, Nelson or Iloka. Rookie Shawn Williams has yet to show he can transition well enough into the defense for the Bengals to rely on him as a last option.
Cost to the Bengals
The Bengals have plenty of salary cap room to cover the cost to sign Reed, which all told would be less than $1 million in base salary and game-day checks now that Reed has cleared waivers. The real cost to the Bengals would be the loss of a player from their roster. With the return of wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, the Bengals would be able to waive a wide out, who would most likely be Ryan Whalen.
Despite the willingness by the Bengals to sign older veterans, they passed when the opportunity emerged to replace star defensive tackle Geno Atkins by signing either Richard Seymour or Marcus Spears, each of whom would have had a more significant and immediate impact than Reed would have.
Given the limited costs and potential reward, signing Reed should be given serious consideration by the Bengals, especially if it means keeping Reed from coming back to haunt the Bengals once again if he signs with another AFC playoff contender.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com.
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