The Ravens officially assigned the franchise tag to two-time Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata on Tuesday, keeping him with the team and allowing both sides time to work on a long-term contract extension once a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.
“The tender allows us to secure Haloti as a Raven right now,” stated General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “As we have said, our intention is to enter into a long-term contract with him. We want him to be a Raven.”
If the franchise tag does continue to exist under the new CBA, Ngata will make the average of the top salaries at his position in 2011. Considering the massive contracts doled out to defensive tackles last year, that number was recently reported to be $12.5 million. Last year, franchised defensive tackles earned $7 million.
The Ravens have consistently expressed their desire to lock up the 6-foot-4, 340-pounder long-term. Ngata is coming off his best season, continuing his dominance in stopping the run while developing into a pass-rushing threat.
In 2010, Ngata totaled 65 tackles and was second on the team with a personal-high 5 ½ sacks.
The Ravens actually couldn’t have signed Ngata before there is a new CBA. Under the current agreement, players cannot receive extensions or renegotiate if he made 30 percent more from 2009 to 2010. According to several reports, Ngata’s salary more than doubled during that span.
“We’re on record and everybody knows that we want Haloti to be a Raven for life,” Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh told WBAL on Tuesday night. “I’m sure we’re going to get it done. There are some reasons why we can’t do it here before the lockout. There’s a 30-percent rule in place. I would be impossible to do it under the current CBA rules to actually sign him to an extension right now, which is really unfortunate. Because if it was possible to do it, I’m pretty sure we’d have it done.
“So we’re just going to have to wait – if there is a lockout – until after the lockout in order to try to get him re-signed.”
The deadline for assigning franchise tags is Feb. 23, although it is uncertain whether the designation will exist after March 4. Earlier this month, the league advised its clubs that they could tag players, while the NFLPA denied the tag’s validity with no CBA in place after its potential expiration.
Still, putting Ngata in that category at least allows the Ravens to hold onto his rights and immediately begin contract negotiations once a new CBA is signed into existence.
Ngata’s worth to the Ravens’ defense is undeniable.
Since the Ravens drafted him 13th overall in 2006, Baltimore has allowed only 31 rushing touchdowns, second-least in the NFL. The Ravens have never dropped below fifth in run defense during that span.
And, Ngata’s ability to occupy multiple blockers has helped All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis prolong a Hall of Fame career that will enter a 16th season.