The NFL is definitely a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" league, in that the statistics are what measures a player's production from year-to-year. However, for some players, their contribution to their team's success cannot be measured simply in terms of numbers.
Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed is one of those players whose stats do not come close to defining who he is and what he has meant to the Ravens over the past decade. His 2012 season might not have been nearly his best season in the league, but one has to look beyond the numbers to see what his presence on the field means to the defense.
Quarterbacks around the league step up to the line of scrimmage and take a look at the scheme that the defense is offering up to them. For opponents of the Ravens, opposing QBs have looked for two players whereabouts the past ten year. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. First they find Lewis to see where he is playing, which can possibly give them a clue from where the pressure is about to come.
Next they find Reed and try to determine which side of the playing field he is going to lean towards covering so they know where not to throw the ball. Usually where Ed goes, the ball does not follow. Quarterbacks tend to throw to the other side of the field from where Ed roams in order to stay away from the ball-hawking center-fielder, whose game-changing plays have become a thing of legend.
Even in a so-called down year in 2012 for Reed, he still finished with 58 combination tackles, 15 passes defensed, four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. His 2011season was virtually the same, but his 2010 season, despite only consisting of ten games, was incredible, considering he still led the league with eight interceptions.
If the past two years are what he is expecting to provide from this point on, stats-wise, could another current Ravens player (James Ihedigbo, Omar Brown, etc.), another veteran free agent or a rookie draft pick give the Ravens the same numbers in 2013?
Even so, can they put the fear of "Reed" into opposing signal-callers like Ed did? Of course not, and n fact, it's not even up for debate. Reed and Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome have both said they want to keep #20 in a Ravens uniform but can they come up with a salary that would be acceptable for both parties?
Hopefully, the recent announcement of the details of QB Joe Flacco's contract as well as the team's other needs will permit both parties to reach a sensible accord that will pay Reed what he wants and what the team can afford, and still allow them to target the other players, both on the team and around the league, to put together a squad to defend their Super Bowl title in 2013 and beyond.