The Ravens continue to fill holes on their defense and at a significantly lower price than the players who departed.
About a week after their long-time free safety Ed Reed signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Houston Texans, the Ravens settled on a potential replacement, agreeing in principle to a three-year, $6 million pact with former Oakland Raider Michael Huff on Wednesday.
Huff, who was released March 12 as part of the Raiders' roster purge, will be at the Ravens' facility Thursday to take his physical and sign his contract. When his deal is official, he'll become the fourth outside free agent to be added to the Ravens defense, joining outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears.
A 2006 first-round pick, Huff played all 16 regular season games in six of his seven seasons with Oakland. Known as a solid tackler with good ball skills, Huff has 11 interceptions and 55 pass deflections in his career. Ten of those interceptions came over the last four seasons.
Huff, 30, is expected to start for the Ravens, who lost both of their starting safeties from their Super Bowl XLVII-winning team. Before Reed signed with the Texans after 11 seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens terminated the contract of strong safety Bernard Pollard. Reserve safety and key special teams contributor Sean Considine is also a free agent.
The Ravens did re-sign veteran James Ihedigbo, who before Huff's addition was the only safety on the team's roster to start a game in his NFL career. The Ravens' other safeties are Christian Thompson, Anthony Levine, Emanuel Cook and Omar Brown. All of them spent a significant part of this past season either on injured reserve or the practice squad.
Asked about his team's depth at safety at last week's league meetings in Phoenix, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, "We feel like we have some good young safeties on our roster and we're open to adding some guys, too. But we'll find safeties."
The Ravens have 12 picks in next month's draft, which features a talented safety class. They figure to draft at least one safety, but Huff's addition gives them a known commodity at the position.
Huff, the seventh overall pick in 2006 after a standout collegiate career at Texas, had 56 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups last season while primarily playing cornerback because of a rash of injuries in the Raiders' secondary.
Huff's best season was in 2010, when he made 94 tackles to go along with four sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions. He was named to the All-NFL second team by the Associated Press after the season.
At 6 feet and 211 pounds, Huff adds both athleticism and position flexibility to the Ravens secondary. He played strong safety for his first two seasons in Oakland and then moved to free safety the next four before starting 14 of 16 games at cornerback last year.
Huff was due to make $4 million in base salary and $4 million in a roster bonus when he was let go by the cost-cutting Raiders. He received steady interest around the league and took a visit to the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, but they did not have the salary cap room to sign him. A day later, he agreed to terms with the Ravens.
Ravens officials studied Huff extensively heading into the 2006 draft. However, they never got a chance to take him. Huff was selected five picks before the Ravens nabbed Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.