Ravens lock up safety Reed with six-year extension

Four-year veteran safety Ed Reed, the league's defensive player of the year in 2004, has reached agreement with the Baltimore Ravens on a six-year contract extension worth $40 million that will carry through the 2012 season, team officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

The team's first-round choice in the 2002 draft, Reed was entering the final year of his original contract with the team, at a base salary of $1.983 million, and would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency without the extension. Reed, 27, has been seeking to upgrade his contract for more than a year.

Had the Ravens not been able to reach an extension with Reed by next spring, it is likely Baltimore would have designated the former University of Miami star a franchise player to limit his mobility. It is not known yet when the contract will be officially executed with the NFL, but Reed is expected to sign it this week, and Ravens officials said there is no chance the deal will not be completed.

The deal makes Reed one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Reed's agent, Greg Genske, said his client will receive a $15 million signing bonus in the largest deal ever given to a safety.

"It's one less thing for him to worry about," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He knows he is going to be here for the long-term now, and it part of the plans in the big picture, and he can devote his energies now to football matters and to being the playmaker he has always been for us."

If possible, Reed's importance to the Baltimore defense will be heightened this year, since he will be breaking in a new safety partner. Starting free safety Will Demps departed to the New York Giants as an unrestricted free agent and there are a number of candidates, all of them relatively inexperienced, vying for the job.

The 24th player selected overall in the 2004 draft, Reed became a starter as a rookie and has been a fixture in the Baltimore defense ever since. In four seasons, he has appeared in 58 games and started in all but one of those contests. Reed missed six games in 2005 with an ankle injury and recorded career lows in games played (10), tackles (37), interceptions (one) and passes defensed (12).

In his first three seasons, Reed averaged 89 tackles, seven interceptions and 16.3 passes defensed. Reed posted five or more interceptions in each of his first three seasons and led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2004. The Ravens expect him to return to health, and to his previous form, for 2006. Reed was selected to the Pro Bowl for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Although he is listed as a strong safety, and is effective playing close to the line of scrimmage, Reed also possesses great range and a big-play mindset. In his four seasons, he has 31 "big plays," the combination of takeaways and sacks.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.