Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Norton, MA
Casino cash: $1398000
KC Joyner, ESPN Insider, argues the Pats should sign Ed Reed.
It's Insider so I'll post the whole thing.
Bill Belichick has a long history of being aggressive when it comes to improving his teams via avenues outside of the NFL draft. Rosevelt Colvin, Corey Dillon, Rodney Harrison, Randy Moss, Junior Seau and Wes Welker all were acquired either via free agency or trade and each of them had a major impact in keeping the New England Patriots in Super Bowl contention over the past decade.
At first glance, this offseason does not look to be one where the Patriots will make one of those moves, as their current roster situation could make them place a higher priority on keeping players such as Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Woodhead and Aqib Talib on the 2013 roster.
But the Patriots want to get back to the Super Bowl. To do that, they need to find a way to sign Ed Reed.
Reed is one of Bill Polian's Tier A defensive free agents and he has the type of skill set that could have a championship domino effect on the entire New England ballclub.
That effect starts on defense. The Patriots already have some strong suits on that side of the ball, as they were ninth in rush yards allowed (1,630), sixth in rush yards allowed per play (3.8) and second in takeaways (41) last season. Throw in the fact that most of New England's defensive roster is young and it illustrates there are some solid building blocks here.
Where they need help is in coverage. New England gave up 7.7 yards per pass attempt last year, a mark that ranked 28th in the league and next to last in the AFC.
To be fair, some of that was due to the Patriots' opponents going all-out to keep up with the New England offense and gaining chunks of yards while trailing, but it cannot be overlooked that this team came up somewhat short in the area of cornerback coverage last season.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington's 8.2 yards per attempt (YPA) is actually better than what his level of play looked to be for much of last year, and he was well out of his league during the AFC Championship Game when he had to fill in for the injured Talib. Arrington may have a future as a nickel or dime back, but he probably isn't a viable coverage option outside of that.
Talib is a popular choice among many as one of the free agents New England should be looking to bring back, but his 10.2 YPA last year is just the latest in a long line of abysmal metric examples showing he is the type of cornerback who gives up as many big plays as he makes. [my comment: To be fair, Talib's YPA as a Patriot was 8.2, not 10.2. That's still too high, imo.]
The Patriots did get solid season out of rookie Alfonzo Dennard (7.2 YPA) and will have oft-injured former second-round draft pick Ras-I Dowling back in the lineup next year, but all in all this does not look to be the makings of a strong set of cornerbacks.
That would change with Reed in the lineup, as New England would have the option of moving Devin McCourty from free safety back to his starting cornerback role. McCourty did a superb job of manning centerfield last year, posting a team-best 6.6 YPA mark. McCourty did have some coverage issues in the 2011 season (a team high 10.2 YPA) due in part to his battling a shoulder injury in the latter part of that campaign. But all in all he has been the team's best coverage defensive back in two of the past three years. That indicates that he has a skill level that could allow the Patriots to rotate coverages to the other side of the field and thus shore up their overall pass defense. [PFF ranks McC as the #1 coverage S in the NFL for 2012]
Reed's acquisition would also allow the Patriots a lot more flexibility with their first-round draft pick.
They could use that pick to select an in-the-box safety like Matt Elam (as Mel Kiper's latest mock draft has the Patriots doing) to pair with Reed in the defensive backfield. The upside to this move would be that Reed's experience could allow a talented rookie like Elam to get into the lineup from Day 1, as Reed would be quite helpful in reducing any of Elam's youthful mistakes. [No mention of Tavon Wilson? I like Elam fine but I'd rather have McC at S and acquire a CB to pair w/ Dennard.]
Reed could also allow New England to devote that pick toward shoring up another area of need such as the offensive line, as Todd McShay's most recent mock draft has them doing. [OG, J. Cooper, really? An interior OL makes no sense to me at 29. DB/WR/DT and we're talking!]
The impact doesn't stop there, either, as Reed's presence might also prove to be helpful for the offensive side of the ball.
New England has been very adept at winning high-scoring games the past few years but the possible loss of Welker via free agency and Brady's decline [?] could mean that this offense may want to start leaning more on a rushing attack that ranked seventh in the league in rushing yards last year and actually finished ahead of the much more heralded Houston Texans' ground game in that category. That type of approach is harder to do when the defense cannot stop other teams from throwing the football with success, so the improved pass coverage would allow for a revised offensive game plan as well.
It's not as if this move is an impossible pipe dream, as Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has indicated he will not place the franchise tag on Reed, and at last check the Patriots had $18 million in cap space. In addition, as noted by AFC East blogger James Walker, New England will likely make additional roster moves to add more salary cap space, so the Patriots may be able to make an offer that the cap-challenged Ravens will not be able to match.
When a team can take away a pillar of one of its top conference rivals and use that player in a way that positively impacts nearly every facet of the club, it is the kind of move that has the potential to go down in football history as one of the most impactful free agent signings ever. As long as Reed is willing to leave Baltimore, Belichick and the New England front office should do everything they can to make sure he is wearing a Patriots uniform in 2013.