OWINGS MILLS – A blockbuster contract for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and some breathing room under the salary cap could both be in the Baltimore Ravens’ near future.
The Ravens intend to launch contract talks toward a long-term extension with their franchise player within the next three to four days of training camp.
"The Ravens have had discussions with representatives of Haloti Ngata," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told 24×7 in a telephone interview. "Once the dust settles at the beginning of training camp, we will start to negotiate an extension to his contract."
Roughly $5 million under the salary cap limit of $120.375 million, the Ravens could create some financial ability to sign other players if they can get Ngata signed.
He’s currently due a $12.476 million one-year tender, the average of the top five defensive line salaries. The entire figure counts against the Ravens’ salary cap.
"I don’t mind it," Ngata said when asked about being the Ravens’ franchise player. "As long as I can get that long-term contract, that’s what I’m really trying to shoot for. Right now, I’m just basically trying to be out here and help the guys out. I leave all business to my agent. I don’t really worry about it. I just try to produce as much as I can."
What will it take to get Ngata signed?
The figure could rival the money paid to Detroit Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh last year. Suh was signed to a five-year, $68 million contract that includes $40 million in guaranteed money.
"We will keep our fingers crossed that he is doing it as a Raven for many years to come," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He is just a tremendous leader. He has a great demeanor. He works really hard. I think he loves football. He doesn’t mind being out here working, so the sky is the limit. It will be interesting to see."
FREE AGENCY UPDATE: The Ravens contacted Houston Texans Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, but talks haven’t accelerated beyond that preliminary conversation.
Leach has several options and could get expensive. Among his options: the Texans, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are talking with free agent cornerback Chris Carr.
Carr has also been in touch with the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Unconfirmed trade rumors surrounding Giants holdout defensive end Osi Umenyiora center around two teams: the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
SUGGS ABOUT TO RETURN: Although Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs remains on the non-football injury list, the Ravens’ top pass rusher is going to be activated as soon as today after passing his physical and a conditioning test.
Suggs didn’t practice Thursday or Friday, and his right hamstring was wrapped up tightly.
"I am pretty sure he is going to be out practicing, but we’ll see," Harbaugh said. "One thing we are not going to do is push it, certainly not at this stage of camp. Knowing Terrell, he will probably push it and he will want to be out there practicing."
Suggs announced that he’s actually healthy.
"Hammi is all good family," Suggs wrote on his Twitter account. "Now lets get back to football."
Offensive guard Ben Grubbs (ankle surgery), wide receiver David Reed (wrist), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney remain on the physically unable to perform list.
ED REED TO RETURN: Ravens All-Pro free safety Ed Reed is expected to return as soon as today after missing the first two practice of camp due to an undisclosed family issue.
"We expect him to be around, but that is not 100 percent," Harbaugh said. "He has got to take care of his issue first, but he is working hard to get back here, I believe."
ROSTER MOVES: The Ravens withdrew their $1.2 million qualifying offers to restricted free agent wide receiver Marcus Smith and running back Jalen Parmele.
However, both players were signed to new contracts for lower salaries. So, they remain on the roster.
The Ravens also waived defensive tackle Lamar Divens and running back Curtis Steele, who are believed to have flunked their physicals.
LANDRY LEAVES: Former Ravens starting strong safety Dawan Landry agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal is expected to average $5 million per year.
The Ravens are going to have Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura compete for the job opposite Reed.
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is in talks with the Oakland Raiders, but his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he hasn’t signed yet.
MONEY DOESN’T CHANGE YANDA: Even though he signed a five-year, $32 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus, Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda hasn’t departed from his blue-collar roots.
Yanda grew up on a pig farm. He recently drove all the way from Iowa with his wife and he recently dined at Subway.
"Nothing fancy," Yanda said.
Yanda could have likely earned more money by exploring his free agency options.
However, that wasn’t what motivated the former third-round draft pick from Iowa.
"I wanted to stay here all along and we got to do that, so I’m excited," Yanda said. "I’m real excited to do some good things this season. We have a lot of unfinished business that we’ve built the last three years, and I’m excited to be a part of that. I’ll just keep working hard and get out there and get sweating like everybody else and go to work.
"It just felt good to be wanted and to know the hard work paid off. Good things happen to good people, and I’m just fortunate to be here and I’m happy. I didn’t want to leave. When free agency started, you have to do the deal. I definitely wanted to stay here and I’d love to retire here."
Yanda plays the game with a gritty style.
"You’re just being physical and setting the tone," Yanda said. "It pushes everyone else to be tough and be physical and get after guys. I take pride in practice. I never missed a practice last year. If the bone is not sticking out, I’m playing. That’s just the way I am."
The Ravens plan to put Yanda back at his natural right guard spot after he started every game at right tackle due to Jared Gaither being sidelined with a back injury. Now, Yanda might play next to rookie tackle Jah Reid this season if he’s ready.
"I think I can excel at guard really well," Yanda said. "Playing tackle was more of a team thing to help the team out because we didn’t have anyone else. I’m a little shorter to play tackle. It’d be nice to have those long arms and be about 6-8, but I’m about 6-3 ½, so guard would probably suit me better with my framework. I like being out on the grass no matter what, guard or tackle. My perception of the game doesn’t change."