Their level of interest wasn't immediately known, but it appears to be more than cursory. The New England Patriots have been mentioned as another suitor.
The future Hall of Famer, released Tuesday by the Houston Texans, cleared waivers Wednesday afternoon. Two hours before he hit the open market, Rex Ryan sounded intrigued by Reed, whom he once coached in Baltimore. Ryan acknowledged that he discussed Reed with general manager John Idzik, but he stopped short of saying they planned to pursue him.
"I could say absolutely, yes, I'd like him on our team," said Ryan, who tried to camouflage his interest by mentioning several other former players he'd like to have back but couldn't.
By early evening, however, the Jets had reached out to Reed, the source said.
Ryan and Reed spent seven seasons together with the Baltimore Ravens, from 2002 to 2008. Two years ago, Ryan called him the greatest safety in history.
On Wednesday, Ryan suggested the decision was out of his hands.
"The big picture of right now, the current football team, I'm probably not the right guy to make all those decisions," Ryan said. "I think sometimes there's a comfort level in knowing guys, without question, guys that certainly played well for you. ... I'd like those guys, without question."
The Jets' current starters at safety are Dawan Landry, who played alongside Reed from 2006 to 2010 in Baltimore, and Antonio Allen. Ryan praised Allen, saying he "has a chance to be really good." The third safety is Jaiquawn Jarrett. The trio has combined for only two interceptions.
Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he'd welcome Reed.
"I don't have any say in that, but most definitely, as long as he could come in and contribute," he said.
Tight end Kellen Winslow, who played with Reed at the University of Miami, believes he still can be an impact player at age 35.
"Please. Are you kidding me? He's the best I've ever seen do it at safety," Winslow said. "He's going to land somewhere and wreak havoc. I'd love to have him here. He's the ultimate leader. In our defense, he'd be able to gamble all he wants. He's a great asset, a smart player."