Haloti Ngata would be a fit for an extension
Haloti Ngata was once thought of as one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. He possesses the perfect blend of size, strength and agility to shed blocks, chase down quarterbacks, and even drop into coverage. His performance early in his career netted the 2006 first round pick a five year deal worth around $61M. He was given the franchise tag and $12.4M in 2011, but was offered a four year extension shortly after the season began.
The eight year veteran has two years left on that contract that makes him the 2nd highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL behind Ndumakong Suh. Ngata also possesses the second highest cap hit of any DT, behind Suh, for the 2014 season at $16M. That $16M is also the highest cap hit on the Ravens this upcoming season.
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While Ngata is worth that much on the books, his play of recent years would say otherwise. Injuries have seemed to be a factor even though he usually plays through them. He is still one the better DTs in run defense and the defense around him suffers when he isn’t in the game. But his pass rushing is another story. Just one and a half, or two sacks in 2013 depending on the publication, and only four hits on quarterbacks total. For a defensive tackle to be worthy of that kind of money, he needs to be the total package like he once was. Ngata was a first team All-Pro across the board from 2009-2011. He can’t be one dimensional and continue to cost the amount he is.
With his decline in play, over the hill in football years at age 30, and with two years left on his contract, he becomes a perfect candidate for reconstruction of his contract.
Before we get into this exercise, reconstruction or extension of Ngata’s contract is based on whether or not you want him on the team for the foreseeable future. How much more will Ngata’s play decline? Are you content with a run stuffer who can let LBs behind him make plays while lacking in the pass rush department? How many productive years do you think the eight year veteran has left in him? For the sake of this article, let’s assume the Ravens want him, and Ngata wants to be here.
There are two guys in the league that most closely compare production wise to what Ngata has brought to the table over the last year. At this point it is Cincinnati’s Domata Peko and Atlanta’s Jonathan Babineaux. All three players are comparable in age and skill set as better run defenders than pass rushers.
Peko was a fourth round selection out of Michigan State in 2006 coming from the same draft class as Ngata. He signed a five year extension tacked onto his existing contract in 2008. The five year deal was worth $27.77M with $6M guaranteed. Peko is in the final year of that deal.
Babineaux was a second round selection out of Iowa in 2005. He also received a five year deal at the end of his rookie contract. The five year deal was worth $25M and $3M guaranteed. Babineaux is a free agent and has voiced that he would like to return to Atlanta. At age 32, a two to three year deal for Babineaux would be wise.
Neither of those players contracts help with nailing down how much Ngata would be worth since they were signed five or more years ago and in their primes. Perhaps what Babineaux happens to get from Atlanta, or on the market would help give us a better ballpark.
What we do know is that Ngata is not a $12.1M per year player anymore. Ngata is not worth cutting based on the fact that cutting him before June 1st save the Ravens only $1M against the cap and creates $15M in dead money. After June 1 the $15M in dead money would be split between this year and 2015 giving the Ravens an immediate cap savings of $8.5M. Almost three months into free agency in early June, what’s the point? Then they would pay $7.5M in 2015 for him not to be on the team. It doesn’t make sense to release or trade him this offseason.
So to offer Ngata an extension, restructuring his contract to lower his salary cap impact of $16M in 2014, you ask yourself, how many years would you extend him? I would think adding two years, making it in a way a four year deal would be about right. That takes Ngata up to his age 34 season.
Since we’re not talking a pay cut here, the signing bonus of the new contract needs to meet or exceed the $8.5M base salary Ngata is due each of the next two seasons.
So we’re talking essentially a four year deal, $17M guaranteed that Haloti Ngata gets in one lump sum rather than over the course of the next two years. How much base salary? I think if they settle on a four year deal worth $32M with the $17M upon signing, that deal would be considered very generous. It says they want to keep him here through at least 2016, and they respect what he’s done for the team over the years. Lowering his average yearly salary to $8M still makes him the fifth highest paid DT in the league, same as Vince Wilfork, which Ngata couldn’t argue with. It’s more than fair.
The alternative for Ngata is he gets his $8.5M base salary in 2014 and maybe the Ravens release or trade him prior to 2015. His release would save them $8.5M with $7.5M of dead money, which isn’t exactly horrible. Cutting him after June 1, 2015 means the dead money would be $3.75M per year for two years.
How could a possible four year, $32M contract with $17M guaranteed look? Here’s a breakdown.
With Haloti Ngata’s service time, the veteran minimum he is due is $855K. They can give him that base salary since he’ll be getting $17M up front. He’ll also make an extra $2M he otherwise wouldn’t have over the next two years under this deal. Another way to look at it, if Ngata doesn’t take an extension and they cut him after 2014, then Ngata makes his $8.5M, leaving $10.5M on the table and would be seeking a new team after that.
The previous prorated bonus amounts stay on the books. But the Ravens still save about $3.4M against the cap in 2014 and about $3.1M against it in 2015. The $5M base salary in 2016 when Ngata reaches age 32 is slightly higher than the previously mentioned Jonathan Babineaux’s 2013 base ($4.7M) and Domata Peko’s 2014 base ($3.965M).
The Ravens can then revisit this again in 2017. Will a 33 year old Haloti Ngata be worth $12.25M against the cap, an $8M base salary? Or has his best years passed him by and the $8M in savings by trading or cutting him too good to pass up?
In summary, barring some unexpected circumstances, Haloti Ngata will be a Raven in 2014. Given his performance in the last two seasons, I can’t see a situation where they allow him to continue to be the second highest paid DT in the league. Restructure with an extension, or paying him his full salary is the only options in 2014. A possible extension could save the Ravens over $3M in cap space in each of the next two seasons while still paying Ngata his $17M due over those years in one shot. Cutting or trading Ngata becomes an option in 2015 for $8.5M in cap savings if the Ravens put this off until next season.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]