You can’t help get the feeling that the Ravens might be already thinking about the next contract for Haloti Ngata. Ngata signed his rookie deal in 2006; and will be eligible for free agency following the 2010 season. However, his agent will certainly be looking to get him a new deal following the 2009 season.
Albert Haynesworth just got $41 million guaranteed. Many argue that Ngata was just behind Haynesworth and Shaun Rogers as the NFL’s best interior defensive lineman. In the Ravens blog at The Sun; even Mike Preston thinks Ngata must have been excited about the numbers Haynesworth banked.
And in looking at how the Ravens have allowed the initial days of free agency to play out; you can’t help but wonder how the organization views the future of their defense. Bart Scott could have been a long term option at inside linebacker; but the Ravens decided to back out of the bidding war for the “Mad Backer.” Terrell Suggs still does not have a long term deal with the Ravens; even though they have given him the franchise designation for a 2nd straight year.
Have we reached a point where this organization is saying “Ngata is the future”? Could Ozzie Newsome be thinking to himself “we can find linebackers, we always have. Let’s invest the money in the middle of out D-Line for a player who has been nothing short of outstanding since we drafted him”?
Something tells me the answer might be yes. There is an argument that saving money now is irrelevant because the NFL is approaching an uncapped year; but the league is not likely to have an uncapped future. If the Ravens decide to give Haynesworth big money next season; they might not be able to afford multiple big money linebackers as well. They may have to trust in their scouting department to find more young interior linebackers; especially if they are going to choose to invest money in weapons for Joe Flacco on the offensive side.
To me, this scenario is actually very sensical. Frequent Comcast Morning Show guest Sean Salisbury reminded me yesterday that NFL teams are tending to build inside out. This would contradict one of Ozzie Newsome’s perceived philosophies, (which Drew Forrester reminded me of during his interview with Charley Casserly yesterday); “when it comes to spending a lot of money, you spend it on a guy who touches the ball; or can touch the quarterback.” While that philosophy has worked for a number of years; the Ravens have never had a D-Lineman as young and talented as Ngata. They have almost no choice but to try to lock him up.
Keeping Haloti Ngata in Baltimore won’t be cheap; but there is little choice but to make the move. The Ravens need a centerpiece for the future of their defense; and it won’t be Ray Lewis (even if returns he only has a few years), Ed Reed (injuries will likely shorten his time in the league), Bart Scott (who will try to put together a new “Shreking Crew” in New Jersey) and might not be Terrell Suggs (if the Ravens can’t get him locked up). The pieces are in place for this to become the start of the “Ngata Era.”