INDIANAPOLIS — Addressing one of the biggest questions of the offseason, head coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence Wednesday that the Ravens will work out a contract extension with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection carries a $16 million salary cap figure in the final season of a five-year, $61 million contract, but Baltimore is desperately trying to clear cap space by working out an extension that would lower his cap figure by several million dollars and allow the 2006 first-round pick to finish his career with the Ravens. Some have expressed doubt over whether the organization should invest more money in a 31-year-old defensive tackle, but Harbaugh sees plenty of good football in Ngata’s future.
“Haloti’s going to play great. He loves Baltimore. He loves the fans. He loves the organization,” the eighth-year head coach told WNST.net at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. “He wants to be here. We want him here. It’s just a matter of [senior vice president of football administration] Pat Moriarty and [Ngata's agent] Mike McCartney coming to terms on something that Haloti feels great about and the organization feels great about. I’m real confident we can get that done. I really believe it will get done. I don’t have any doubt in my mind it’ll get done, but it’s got to get done.”
The Ravens are hoping to re-sign the likes of wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and tight end Owen Daniels before they hit free agency next month, making a Ngata resolution a must to clear cap room. After drafting defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan in the last two years, the Ravens have built substantial depth around Ngata, but it’s clear they want to continue the relationship at a price that makes sense for both sides.
The Ravens would save $8.5 million in cap space by cutting the veteran defensive lineman.
Harbaugh acknowledged it can be difficult assessing the value of cornerstone players approaching the latter stages of their careers, but he applauded the organization’s ability over the years to project how veteran players will perform in the future. This has led to long-term contract extensions for linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, who were both past the age of 30, in the Harbaugh era.
Despite a four-game suspension for Adderall in December, Ngata had his best season in a few years, making 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, seven pass breakups, and two interceptions in 2014.
“Any contract is for what you expect. It’s not for what somebody’s [already] done,” Harbaugh said. “You never pay backwards. You pay forward, so you’ve got to take that into consideration. I think we do a great job of understanding that a lot of what a guy’s done kind of helps predict that in terms of who they are. You’ve got to make a determination.”