Steelers Free Agent Decisions: Jeff Reed
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There aren't many certainties for the Steelers when it comes to deciding what to do with some of their top unrestricted free agents. It remains unclear if they will use a franchise tag on five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton, and they will be in no hurry to re-sign running back Willie Parker or cornerback Deshea Townsend, even though they would take both players back at a reduced rate if they don't sign with another team.
But one thing is certain: Their top priority before free agency begins March 5 is to sign kicker Jeff Reed to a new contract. They intend to accomplish that before doing anything else, and that is fine by Reed, who has maintained all along his desire to remain with the Steelers.
A look at the other free agents the Steelers must decide on in anticipation of the start of free agency on March 5:
Sunday: Nose Tackle Casey HAMPTON
Monday: Safety Ryan CLARK
Tuesday: Running Back Willie PARKER
Wednesday: Cornerback Deshea TOWNSEND
Thursday: Right Tackle Willie COLON
Today: Kicker Jeff REED
Reed said that he has met with "the most important people in the organization" -- president Art Rooney II, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin -- "and they all said they definitely want me back. They want me to retire a Steeler. Sounds like a good plan to me."
He has been one of the National Football League's most accurate and dependable kickers since his rookie season in 2002, despite kicking outdoors in the Northeast. His career field goal percentage of 83.26 percent (189 of 227) -- seventh among all active kickers -- ranks ninth in NFL history among kickers with 100 or more field goals.
In a season in which the NFL's field-goal percentage dropped from 84.5 in 2008 to 81.3, Reed's conversion percent of 87.1 (27 of 31) was second only to San Diego's Nate Kaeding (91.4) among kickers with 30 or more attempts. And that after a rare bad performance in Week 2 in Chicago in which Reed missed attempts of 38 and 43 yards in the fourth quarter.
After that game, he never missed again from inside 50 yards, converting all 24 attempts. In fact, his only misses after the Chicago loss were from 52 and 53 yards, the latter on a cold December day at Heinz Field.
Since 2007, Reed has converted 88.2 percent of his attempts (75 of 85) -- the same success rate as Kaeding (83 of 94), the percentage leader in league history, in that time.
But Reed's greatest attribute might be his ability to deliver when it matters most -- a quality that was underscored in the past couple weeks when kickers such as Kaeding, Cincinnati's Shayne Graham and Arizona's Neil Rackers missed field-goal attempts at critical junctures of playoff games. Reed has made 14 consecutive post-season field goals since missing two his rookie season and is 22 of 25 in the final two minutes or in overtime of a regular-season game.
"The last three years, if you look at what I've done, I'm very proud of that," Reed said Thursday from Charlotte, N.C., where he is visiting his family. "I've never been to the Pro Bowl. I don't necessarily like it when I'm not mentioned among the best kickers in the league."
Conceivably, the Steelers could place a franchise or transition tag on Reed and keep him for one more season. But a franchise tag for kickers/punters before the 2009 season (average of top five salaries) was $2,483,000. A transition tag for kickers/punters (average of top 10 salaries) was $2,264,000.
Reed's 2009 salary was $1,375,000, though he counted $1,973,334 against the salary cap. A year earlier, his cap value of $1,958,333 ranked ninth among NFL kickers.
"I'm very loyal to the Steelers," Reed said. "No matter what has happened in the past, the organization has treated me very respectfully and made me feel like it's home."
First Published January 29, 2010 12:00 am