Is cutting Ed Reed an option Ravens should explore?

February 27, 2012 | Drew Forrester

If you were given an expansion team in the NFL for the 2012 season and the rules were such that you could take THREE of the four players below and add them to your roster, which three would you take?

Ray Rice, Ben Grubbs, Joe Flacco, Ed Reed

I think nearly everyone doing this exercise said to themselves, “Well, Flacco and Rice are definites…it comes down to Grubbs and Reed.”

I know that’s what I thought.

Then you have to make a determination between Ben Grubbs, the talented, physical offensive guard and Ed Reed, the future Hall of Fame safety who can still step up and be a difference like he was in the January home playoff win over Houston.

Who do you take?

It’s not an easy choice, but it’s an obvious one.

You take Ben Grubbs.

That exact scenario could be an option for the Ravens this spring as they try and move forward under a salary cap ($127mm) that doesn’t provide for much flexibility given the team’s recent signing splurges like Foxworth, Ngata and Suggs.

If the Ravens want to keep Ben Grubbs and Ray Rice, both, plus get Joe Flacco’s new contract handed to him before the season kicks off, it might mean a few veterans have to go.  Domonique Foxworth is a likely casualty, saving the team $5.6 million on the salary cap.  Lee Evans ($3.2mm) is a name to look at, too, although I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the team keeps him at a reduced salary.  Keeping in mind that the Ricky Williams-retired-story potentially saves the club $1.5mm and you have about $10.5 million worth of money that can quickly be used to invest on Grubbs, Rice and Flacco.  Add that to the $8.5mm the Ravens entered the off-season under the cap and Baltimore is working with roughly $19 million of “new money” for 2012.

That’s what’s facing Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens.

How do we get those three players signed – as well as others – and do it for less than $19 million?

I’ll offer a solution.

Cut Ed Reed.

It would be almost unheard of to mention those three words in the same sentence – Cut. Ed. Reed. – but as we saw last summer when Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee all got the axe in the same week, putting together a roster that fills all the needs of the team and honors players for their service at the same time is not a working concept in the NFL.  Even great players like Ed Reed have to be considered, carefully, because anytime a player enters the December of his career you have to always ask yourself if the previous season might have been his last hurrah.

One thing for sure.  Last season definitely wasn’t the last hurrah for Flacco, Grubbs or Rice.

But it might have been for Ed Reed.

And that’s not a low blow, it’s just a fact.

Cutting Reed would give the Ravens another $7.2 million to fiddle around with and most definitely go a long, long way in striking a deal with “The Big Three” this off-season.

I’m not Pat Moriarty and I don’t have a degree in Capology, but I know you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poop.  You either fit 53 players into the salary cap or you don’t.  There’s no scooting around the fact that you just can’t sign everyone you want.

I’ve come around a lot on Grubbs over the last three months or so.  I think we saw in the games he missed in 2011 that his absence not only creates a consistency issue at his position, but the left tackle and the offense as a whole feel the effect as well.  The Ravens were a better offensive team – sometimes by a lot – when Grubbs was healthy and playing last season.  Flacco and Rice are both operating at a high level after four years in the league.  Rice’s career – given the typical bell curve expectancy of a running back – is probably nearing Labor Day or so.  I don’t hesitate to say that I think still has at least four more years of high level play in his game before the hits and pounding starts to take its toll.  Flacco hasn’t even reached Memorial Day on his career calendar yet.

Those three need to be signed.

In a way that only team sports can connect three people with varying degrees of ability and capability, Flacco, Rice and Grubbs deserve to be signed as much for what they’ve done for the other two as they’ve done for themselves.

Flacco is the player he is because he has a very good left guard and a very good running back.  When those two are operating at their premium, the Ravens offense is better and they’re scoring points and winning games.

Just flip the names around and the trick still works.  “Rice is the player he is because he has a very good left guard and a very good quarterback…” — “Grubbs is the player he is because…”

I know the Ravens have to be careful because Rice is trying to back them into the proverbial corner by having his agent throw out stuff like “We’re looking for an Adrian Peterson type contract” and Grubbs is likely to get at least one team who thinks they’re a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive lineman from making a real run to say, “Let’s back up the Brinks truck for that Grubbs guy in Baltimore”.  In a perfect world, I think they’d get Flacco signed first so they know for sure exactly what they can spend on the other two given that they’ve locked up their quarterback — which most definitely is their top priority this off-season.

(please see next page)