During the 2006 NFL draft, Haloti Ngata was convinced he was about to join the Cleveland Browns.
The imposing defensive tackle was on the phone with Browns general manager Phil Savage during the first round and fully expecting to have his name called with the 12th overall pick of the draft. The Browns told Ngata he would be their pick unless a trade occurred.
"I was actually excited to be ... drafted by anybody," Ngata recalled today during a conference call with Cleveland reporters. "I was on the phone with the Browns, and that's when Baltimore picked me up. It was really close. I actually thought I was going to be a Brown."
Savage, a former Ravens executive, traded spots with the Ravens as he moved back one position in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.
The Ravens jumped on Ngata, calling him up immediately to let him know he was their guy. One pick later, Cleveland selected Florida State outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
The rest is history as Ngata has developed into one of the most dominant interior forces in the game and been selected to three Pro Bowls. Wimbley has excelled as a pass rusher, but is on his third team after stints with the Browns, Oakland Raiders and now the Tennessee Titans.
"I thought about that earlier. I think it would have been different," Ngata said of the possibility of going to Cleveland. "They picked Kamerion Wimbley and he's been on three different teams. I don't know if I would have been on the same boat or still there."
Meanwhile, the Ravens' defensive status has changed dramatically this season.
The Ravens have fallen to 28th in total defense and 30th against the run.
When asked if the Ravens' window to win a championship is closing, Ngata replied: "No, I don't think so."
However he acknowledged that a traditionally stingy defense has fallen below its usual standard.
"I think our defense is definitely changing, " Ngata said. "We're not the way we want to be right now. Our offense is doing a lot of things to help our team win. I think in that aspect it's changing from a defensive to an offensive team right now. We have a lot of great leaders with Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed and we'll pick it up and get it going."
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