HOUSTON — Ed Reed knew right from the start of free agency that he wanted to play for the Texans and that his days in Baltimore were over.

The nine-time Pro Bowl safety signed a three-year, $15 million contract with Houston on Friday, adding championship experience to the Texans defense and leaving the reigning Super Bowl champions without yet another of their cornerstone players.

Reed said Texans general manager Rick Smith called him on the first day of free agency and the Texans were his first choice from that point on.

“I think we both knew, just from the conversation, how things were going and how this would work,” Reed said. “It just was a matter of time with getting it done.”

The Texans’ gain was one more offseason blow to Baltimore, where Reed, the former Destrehan High star, played his first 11 NFL seasons.

“How fortunate we were to have Ed with us for 11 seasons,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He is one of the Ravens’ and NFL’s all-time greats. Words cannot measure what he did for us, including helping us win a second Super Bowl. We thank him for all he did for Baltimore. Ed will always be a part of the Ravens family.”

Reed said he talked to Newsome, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and owner Steve Bisciotti before signing with Houston.

“Eleven years is a great book,” Reed said. “The way it ended, you can’t write a better script. Eventually, we knew Baltimore had to make decisions and in the end, they made those decisions.”

Texans owner Bob McNair said Houston’s secondary needed more veteran leadership, particularly in big games.

Reed was the NFL’s top defensive player in 2004 and he’s intercepted nine passes in 15 career postseason games. He’s also been durable, playing in all 16 games in all but three of his seasons. He’s dealt with hip, neck and right shoulder injuries in recent years, but he made it through the entire 2012 season without missing a game, making 58 tackles and intercepted four passes.

Houston wasn’t shy about its plans to pursue Reed, announcing on Twitter it was sending McNair’s private jet to pick up Reed in Atlanta, where he has an offseason home.

Reed spent two days in the city and had dinner with Texans star receiver Andre Johnson, one of his college teammates at Miami. The two played on the Hurricanes’ 2001 national championship team.

It helped Houston’s chances that Reed grew up in nearby New Orleans and still has family living there.

“Texas is neighbors to Louisiana; I feel it in the weather,” Reed said. “Knowing that my mom, my dad can drive right on over and see me play football, bring my little nephews, that’s something that you can’t take back. That’s something that won’t ever happen in life.”

Reed says he’s also highly motivated to help his close friend Johnson win a Super Bowl.

“I know where his heart is at, for this city,” Reed said. “There’s no other person I want to help more do that than him. That’s just what we’re reaching for, man.”