By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
7:50 PM EDT, September 21, 2011
Haloti Ngata, the mammoth All-Pro defensive tackle who draws extra attention every Sunday, found himself attracting similar treatment today in the Ravens locker room a day after signing a five-year, $61 million deal.
"Nobody asked me for a loan. They just asked me to give them money," said Ngata, who will get $40 million over the first two years of the deal, which he agreed to Tuesday about an hour before the deadline to sign franchise players to long-term extensions. "There's no loan in it."
Ngata's deal, which could keep the 27-year-old, two-time Pro Bowler in purple and black at least through the 2015 season, is the Ravens' latest move to lock up a player that the organization drafted, developed, and views as a franchise cornerstone. It also spurred the inevitable question: Who's next?
All-Pro running back Ray Rice's rookie contract expires after this season. Quarterback Joe Flacco's deal is up after the 2012 campaign and the young quarterback expressed some frustration in April that he hasn't been offered a contract extension yet.
If his history is an indication, it's only a matter of time for both.
"There's no secret," said linebacker Ray Lewis who was drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 1996. "I think our organization does a great job in handling those guys. [General Manager Ozzie Newsome] does a great job in talking to those guys personally, to kind of let them know where they're at. I think everybody knew what the food chain is, what the priorities of what we're trying to get done is. I think Joe and Ray know what's coming up next for them."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that Ngata "kind of sets the personality" of the defense, and praised Newsome and his staff for locking up one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the NFL. Long considered one of the model organizations in drafting and developing players and evaluating its own talent, the list of players that the Ravens have drafted and kept includes Peter Boulware, Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and, now, Ngata.
"That's something, I think, everybody in the league recognizes. What's been accomplished here, it starts with the draft. These guys are all guys who were drafted that the Ravens decided to hold onto rather than let walk out of the building," Harbaugh said. "They decided … we're going to establish a great defense here and we're going to maintain a great defense. Now, you have the personality for a football team and for an organization. That's really important. Everybody in the building would agree with that."
The immediate impact of Ngata's deal is that they won't have his franchise tender of approximately $12.5 million — which is what he would have made this season had no agreement been reached Tuesday — count against the salary cap. His exact cap hit isn't known, but it should open up some room for the Ravens to perhaps improve their roster depth, maybe at the cornerback or wide receiver.
In the longer term, the Ngata contract puts the Ravens in better position to explore deals for Flacco and Rice or guard Ben Grubbs, whose rookie contract also expires after this season. It also frees up the franchise tag to use on another player. It is unlikely the Ravens will wait to use the franchise tag on Flacco, because that would mean he'd get a one-year contract at a salary based on the average of the NFL's five-highest paid players at his position. With the salaries some of the elite quarterbacks are making, that would seem prohibitive.
For their part, Rice and Flacco didn't use the occasion to campaign for contract extensions. Instead, they praised the Ngata deal, and maintained that they are focused on Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.
"I firmly believe that I'm going to be here for a while," said Rice, who was drafted in the second round in 2008, and ranks second in franchise history in rushing yards. "I really try not to worry about that kind of stuff obviously during the season. I got the great guy, my agent, and the organization will definitely take care of that whether it's right now or after the season. My job right now is to play football. "
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in April, Flacco said that "I would feel after three years, you can make a decision on whether you want me to be your future quarterback or whether you don't."
Today, he said that he wasn't "going to think about myself."
"Hopefully, in [the] future, all of us are going to get a new deal," Flacco said. "I'm not going to think about it. I'm just glad for Haloti right now."
That was the sentiment throughout the Ravens locker room.
"It's money well spent. He's a once-in-a-decade player," said linebacker Jarret Johnson. "The Ravens very rarely re-up guys early, and as the process went on we kept up with it, asking how things are going. And it was weird because while we usually have no interest in another guy's contract, we're all there fighting for him, like, 'Pay him' and 'Take care of our boy.' And then [Tuesday] when we got the news, everyone was all fired up … It's an individual contract between you and your agent, but it was kind of like a team thing because that's how big he is to the organization."
Said linebacker Terrell Suggs: "There are very few players in the NFL that can be considered a Raven, and the ones that they think are Ravens, they keep here. Haloti's one, myself, Ed Reed, Ray [Lewis], Marshal [Yanda]. They do a good job of keeping Ravens guys with that Ravens identity here."
Ngata, a first-round pick in 2006 out of University of Oregon who has started 78 of 82 regular-season games since becoming a Raven, said the deal was a relief and that it's great to be able to provide for his family.
"You see the guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and to be in that kind of group is really humbling," said Ngata who has 10 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries through two games this season. "Hopefully, I can do a great job and help lead this defense and this team and whatever I need to do and get some wins. All the guys are going to be looking at [this] and seeing that with the Ravens, if you produce, you are going to stay around here for a while. I think they see that, and I think it helps those guys want to work more and more."
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