OWINGS MILLS – Haloti Ngata was treated like a large, prosperous bank by his teammates one day after he struck gold with his five-year, $61 million contract.
The Baltimore Ravens’ All-Pro defensive tackle received a $25 million signing bonus, and is due $40 million during the first two years of the lucrative pact.
“Nobody asked me for a loan,” Ngata said. “They just asked me to give them money. There’s no loan in it.”
Ngata’s teammates don’t begrudge him his financial status.
“It’s money well-spent," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "He’s a once-in-a-decade player. It was weird because we usually have no interest in another guy’s contract. When we got the news, everyone was all fired up. It was kind of like a team thing because that’ s how big he is to the organization.”
Under general manager Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have built a tradition of locking up core players with long-term contracts.
Ngata is just the latest, following outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed.
The next three players likely on the Ravens’ negotiating agenda, quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice and offensive guard Ben Grubbs.
Rice and Grubbs’ rookie deals expire after this season, and Flacco is under contract through the 2012 season.
“There’s no secret," Lewis said. “I think our organization does a great job in handling those guys. Ozzie does a great job in talking to those guys personally, to kind of let them know where they’re at. I think everybody knew what the food chain is, what the priorities of what we’re trying to get done is. I think Joe and Ray know what’s coming up next for them.”
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has said the Ravens will address Flacco after this season. Flacco complained earlier this year about the fact that he hasn’t already been signed, a decision that Newsome communicated to his representatives in February at the NFL scouting combine.
“It’s great for Haloti to get a great deal and I think hopefully in the future, all of us are going get a new deal,” Flacco said. “I don’t think going ahead into this season, I am not going to think about it. I am just glad for Haloti right now. I am not really thinking about myself.”
In April, Flacco said he was disappointed at the Ravens’ stance toward him.
“You would think either you know that you like me or you don’t like me,” he said. “I think if you like me you would. We’ll see what happens a year from now. I would much prefer that we get something done right now because in a year from now I’m going to be thinking, ‘Hey, they already made me play one year without another contract what’s the harm in playing another year and seeing what happens after that?’”
With one Pro Bowl selection in three seasons, Rice expressed confidence that he’ll remain a Raven in the future.
“I firmly believe that I am going to be here for a while,” he said. “ I really try not to worry about that kind of stuff, obviously, during the season. I have the right guy, my agent, and the organization will definitely take care of that whether it’s right now or after the season. My job right now is to play football.”
Meanwhile, the Ravens are still celebrating being able to hold onto Ngata.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is one of the most athletic, disruptive defensive linemen in the league.
“It’s big, it sets the personality of the defense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We can be a dominant defense in a lot of ways because he’s that presence in the middle. They always say you want to be strong up the middle, and we’re pretty strong up the middle.”
Ngata was selected in the first round with the 12th overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft, following other defensive gems like Lewis, Reed and Suggs.
“What’s been accomplished here, it starts with the draft,” Harbaugh said “These guys are all guys who were drafted that the Ravens decided to hold onto rather than let walk out of the building. They decided we’re going to establish a great defense here and we’re going to maintain a great defense.
“Now, you have the personality for a football team and for an organization. That’s really important. Everybody in the building would agree with that.”
Significantly richer with $27.1 million in compensation this season instead of the $12.476 million he was scheduled to make as the Ravens’ franchise player, Ngata is relieved that the negotiations are over.
“I don’t have to worry about it throughout the season,” Ngata said. “I don’t have to worry about getting injured and worry about my performance. I can just go out there and play the game I want to play.”
“Hopefully, I can do a great job and help lead this defense and this team and whatever I need to do and get some wins. All the guys are going to be looking at this and seeing that with the Ravens, if you produce, you are going to stay around here for a while. I think they see that, and I think it helps those guys want to work more and more.”
Ngata already has recorded 10 tackles, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two pass deflections that were intercepted by teammates in two games this season.
“He’s the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL, so that means in the world,” Suggs said. “His play last year helped me a lot. The kid’s dedication and his physical ability is just amazing. You got to tip your hat to him. He’s worth every penny.
“There are very few players in the NFL that can be considered Ravens. The ones they think are Ravens, they tend to keep here. Haloti is one, myself, Ed Reed, Ray, Marshal [Yanda], all those guys. They do a good job of keeping guys with that Ravens identity here.”