Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — When New York Jets coach Rex Ryan learned Tuesday that Ed Reed had been released by the Houston Texans, he rushed upstairs to general manager John Idzik’s office to make a pitch for the nine-time Pro Bowl safety.
About 30 hours later, after Reed cleared waivers, it was a done deal.
“It’s only a rumor that I pulled a hamstring,” Ryan said jokingly Thursday, recalling his hurry-up offensive.
Everything happened quickly.
After a midnight meeting with Idzik, Reed returned to the facility early Thursday morning, signed his contract, practiced on aching feet (new cleats) and claimed he’s ready to help the Jets for their playoff push. He’s expected to play in a situational role Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“It feels good,” Reed said after practice. “It feels right.”
This is a reunion for Reed and Ryan, who spent seven seasons together with the Baltimore Ravens.
Ryan, who once called Reed “the best safety that’s ever played,” insisted this wasn’t a sentimental move. He still believes Reed, 35, coming off an unproductive stint with the Texans, can make an impact on a defense.
“I’d say that’s a false statement, that he can’t play anymore,” Ryan said.
Reed lost his starting job in Houston, where he managed only 16 tackles and had zero interceptions or pass breakups in seven games. He was waived after making critical comments about the coaching staff.
As soon as he became available, the Jets broke down tape of his seven games, trying to determine if Reed is washed up or a victim of circumstances.
It’s the latter, said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, another former Ravens assistant close with Reed. Thurman said they were satisfied with his coverage skills, both man-to-man and in different zones. They believe his stats were low because opponents avoided throwing in his vicinity.
“He wasn’t far off from the guy we had in Baltimore,” Thurman said. “Is he the same? Not at 35, but he’s not far from it. It wasn’t what he was doing [in Houston]; it was what the offense wasn’t doing.”
The Jets have been getting torched by the long ball (seven pass plays of at least 45 yards allowed), and they believe Reed — one of the most prolific ball hawks in history — will help the problem.
Now, with a likely Hall of Famer in the deep middle, Ryan practically dared opponents to throw deep on them.
“They’ve thrown the ball over our head a few times,” Ryan said. “Let ’em throw it there now.”
Reed said he was contacted by the Jets and New England Patriots. His respect for coach Bill Belichick is well-documented, but he opted for the Jets because of his familiarity with the coaches, the system and safety Dawan Landry, another ex-Raven.
The idea of reuniting with Ryan also was alluring.
“It’s awesome,” Reed said. “I don’t think either one of us wanted to pass this chance up.”
The Jets declined to spell out Reed’s role beyond Sunday, although he’s expected to be a major contributor. He became a malcontent as his playing time dwindled in Houston, where he played only 12 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Reed said there are “a lot of reasons” why his marriage failed with the Texans, adding: “To put it simple for you, it just wasn’t a good fit.”
Reed said he will accept any role, insisting: “I don’t plan on rocking no boats.”
His arrival will mean less playing time for second-year safety Antonio Allen, who has been starting alongside Landry. There are times when the Jets use a three-safety package.
“I’m not coming in like, ‘It’s me,'” Reed said. “I’m here to help any way I can.”
There are questions about Reed’s health (offseason hip surgery) and movement skills. He’s heard the criticism.
“It’s like Ed Reed is held to a higher standard,” he said. “I created that monster. I’ve been blessed to create that monster. I love it. I’m all for it.”
It was a bold, win-now move by the Jets, who believe Reed can bolster their pass defense for a playoff push that seemed improbable only a few weeks ago. But the landscape has changed, as the Jets are a surprising 5-4, currently holding the second wild-card position in the AFC.
They also believe his intangibles will help their young defense. Asked to describe Reed’s impact on their young defensive backs in practice, Thurman smiled and said, “Some of them wanted to get his autograph.”
Reed is one of the most accomplished defensive players in recent history. He has 61 interceptions for 1,541 return yards (a league record) and seven touchdowns. He’s a five-time All-Pro, last making it in 2010. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.
Information from ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen was used in this report.
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate