The Baltimore Ravens continue to rebuild their defense with patience and a little luck.
A day after officially signing Pro Bowl pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens struck a three-year, $6 million deal with former Raiders safety Michael Huff, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The addition of Huff is critical to Baltimore after the team parted ways with both starting safeties from the Super Bowl, Ed Reed (signed with Houston) and Bernard Pollard (released).
The Ravens are reaping the rewards of not panicking. Baltimore lost five starters from its Super Bowl defense in the first eight days of free agency, and the team never buckled by overpaying for Paul Kruger (five years, $40.5 million) and Reed (three years, $15 million). Instead, the Ravens waited and got Dumervil (five years, $26 million) and Huff (three years, $6 million). That's a victory in terms of value.
Baltimore benefited from good fortune as well. The Ravens wouldn't have had a chance at Dumervil if not for that bizarre fax fiasco, and they might not have landed Huff if not for the cap problems in Dallas. Some believe Huff, a former star at the University of Texas, wanted to go to the Cowboys but he left his visit to Dallas on Monday without a contract because the Cowboys had only about $100,000 in salary-cap space.
The Ravens were impressed with Huff in the 2005 draft, when he was selected seventh overall by the Raiders. Huff, 30, has never been the dominant defender many expected he would be. But Huff has good speed in coverage and can be physical over the middle. The biggest knock on Huff has been his awareness and instincts.
Huff has never been considered a playmaker, but 10 of his 11 interceptions have come in the past four seasons. Last season, Huff broke up 13 passes, two fewer than Reed. What the Ravens lose in making the switch to Huff is Reed's presence. Quarterbacks would avoid throwing at Reed and think twice about throwing deep against the Ravens. It won't be the same with Huff playing back there.
Still, the Ravens are making progress in retooling the NFL's 17th-ranked defense. The storyline for the first wave of free agency was losing Kruger, Reed, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams. This week, the Ravens made headlines with the additions of Dumervil and Huff. Next on the Ravens' defensive checklist is inside linebacker, but the team might wait until the draft before addressing that position.