Ngata gets five-year, $11.9M deal

First-round pick set to practice today

July 29, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens refused to let their first-round draft pick fly the coop.

A day before Haloti Ngata was scheduled leave town and return home to Utah, the Ravens reached an agreement in principle with the defensive tackle, ending his one-day holdout.

Ngata, the 12th overall pick, will sign a five-year, $11.9 million contract today and is expected to suit up for his first practice this afternoon.

"I'm really relieved," he said. "I'm excited that I get to play some football now."

Ngata, the last of the team's rookies to sign, is scheduled to be the Ravens' first rookie starter on defense in four seasons.

At 6 feet 4, 340 pounds, he is expected to be a key cog as the Ravens look to mirror their run-stuffing defenses of years past. The Ravens' run defense, which has always remained strong, hasn't been ranked in the top 5 since 2001.

"It's a great contract for Haloti," said Mike McCartney, Ngata's agent. "I can't wait to see the impact he will have with that team. The linebackers are going to be very excited to have No. 92 in front of them."

The sides had a three-day stalemate in talks because of a unique predicament.

They couldn't base a framework for a contract from the player taken ahead of Ngata - the Denver Broncos' Jay Cutler - because quarterbacks generally make more money than position players. And they couldn't gauge a deal from the player drafted after Ngata - the Cleveland Browns' Kamerion Wimbley - because his contract was considered in league circles to be below-market.

But the Ravens and Ngata were able to bridge the gap, which resulted in a deal with a maximum value of $14 million if incentives are reached.

Ngata also got a favorable contract length at five years, which allows him to reach free agency earlier than other first-round picks. Both players drafted around him (Cutler and Wimbley) signed six-year deals.

"[Ravens chief negotiator] Pat Moriarty worked very hard to get a fair deal," McCartney said.

By the time Ngata signs, he will have missed three practices and a handful of meetings. A lengthier holdout would have hurt both the Ravens and Ngata.

He already had to miss all the veteran spring workouts this offseason because of an NFL rule barring players from all but one camp until their school lets out. If he had lost more time, Ngata's learning curve would have been much steeper.

"He's been very diligent in studying his playbook," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "So mentally, I think he's got it down. So now it's just [about] turning him loose physically, and we'll see where he's at."

After going through practices without Ngata yesterday, linebacker Ray Lewis had a few words for the player who will be critical in shielding blockers for him.

"Just let him know when he comes in that nothing slows down," Lewis said. "He has to pick it up. Hopefully he's getting in great shape and will be ready when he gets here."

In three seasons at the University of Oregon, Ngata finished with 151 tackles, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was named the Pacific-10's co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

"They were very fair to me," Ngata said. "I couldn't afford to miss any more time."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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