Ed Who? Kerry Rhodes is the Safety Teams Should Be Looking At
With the Houston Texans’ release of perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, many fans with teams needing safety help are speculating what picking him up could do for their team. Reed is among the most celebrated defensive players over the last decade-plus; over his career he has been selected for the Pro Bowl nine times, All Pro eight times, Defensive Player of the Year, led the NFL in interceptions three times, and was voted to the NFL 2000s All Decade Team. While there is no disputing Reed is a future Hall of Famer, equally non-disputable is the fact he has not neared that level of play since 2011. The New York Jets signed Reed Thursday but was this a misstep by the organization? They could have helped themselves much more, and much sooner, if they had at least looked to free agent safety Kerry Rhodes.
In March, the Arizona Cardinals released Rhodes in what could not be construed as anything but a salary cap-cutting move, which saved them $5.5 million of their cap space ($4.5 million in base salary and $1 million in bonuses). After they cut fellow safety Adrian Wilson, they moved on at the safety position by signing Yeremiah Bell and starting Rashad Johnson. How exceptional was Rhodes in 2012? ProFootballFocus graded him out as the fourth best safety in the league behind San Diego Chargers’ Eric Weddle, Buffalo Bills’ Jairus Byrd, and Miami Dolphins’ Reshad Jones and looking at his performance it’s easy to see why. He recorded 63 tackles, had 20 stops (solo tackles that resulted in an offensive failure), six passes defensed, and four interceptions. Quarterbacks attempting to complete passes into Rhodes’ coverage area posted a cumulative quarterback rating of 64.5 and only two touchdowns. Rhodes played the whole season without a single penalty, a remarkable achievement considering he played over 1,000 snaps.
As for Reed, PFF ranked him 59th overall in 2012, posting 61 tackles, 12 stops, seven passes defensed, and four interceptions while allowing an opposing quarterback rating of 86.1 on passes into his area of coverage to go with three touchdowns. Reed was also flagged five times in the 1,000+ snaps he played, and according to PFF, he was stronger in pass coverage than in run support, grading out 17th overall in coverage and 70th overall versus the run. As for the Jets choosing to sign Reed over Rhodes, it is at least understandable; Rhodes struggled in head coach Rex Ryan’s system, losing his starting job, and being traded to the Cardinals. However, while there certainly may be value in a team like the Jets signing Reed, it is clear they are overlooking a more talented safety who is available to any team who chooses to sign him.