No one has to tell Michael Huff, the Baltimore Ravens' newest safety, who he's replacing. He spent Wednesday night texting back and forth with Ed Reed, the nine-time Pro Bowl player who manned the Ravens' free safety spot for the past 11 seasons.
"Ed is one of the greatest free safeties to ever play the game. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Huff said at his introductory news conference Thursday. "For me to come in here, I don't really feel like I'm following his footsteps. I'm kind of starting my own legacy."
Huff is not the same player as Reed, and the Ravens aren't going to ask him to play the same role. Reed was football's ultimate center fielder. Huff is more versatile, playing free safety, strong safety, left cornerback and nickel back in his seven years with the Raiders.
In comparing the two players, Huff is four years younger than Reed, a better tackler (Reed had 21 missed tackles last season) and more of a physical presence. Reed, however, is more of a playmaker than Huff and is one of the few safeties who causes offenses to alter their game plans.
Huff will never be a signature player for this franchise like Reed. And he doesn't have to be. The Ravens aren't expecting Huff to be like the Reed from five or six years ago, when he was one of the top defensive players in the game. But there is not as much of a dropoff from Reed to Huff when looking at where the players stand today.
So, what did Huff and Reed text about last night?
"I told him that I would carry the tradition of great safeties in Baltimore," said Huff, who signed a three-year, $6 million contract on Thursday. "I'm definitely going to go out there and hold up my end."