Ngata Safe…For Now
Those within or close to the Ravens inner circle that influences changes in player personnel will tell you that the team subscribes to their own version of the 80/20 rule.
If a player one notch down on the depth can provide 80% of the starter’s production for 20% of the price, said starter is in jeopardy.
The rule allows the team to develop younger players and manage the salary cap.
Jameel McClain and Vonta Leach lost out to the rule this week.
And so too could free agents Arthur Jones and Corey Graham.
Jones has been very clear that he plans on selling his services to the highest bidder. The “highest bidder” is seldom a term that describes the Ravens, particularly when the defensive line is involved where coach Clarence Brooks has been a fantastic orchestrator of rotations to get the most out of his personnel – even when said personnel wasn’t all that.
One only needs to remember this fact – starting beside Haloti Ngata for the Super Bowl XLVII Champions defensive unit was Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Kemo in 2012 was one year removed from 400 pounds and out of the NFL.
But back to Jones…
He’s as good as gone and the Ravens 20% solution for him could be Kapron Lewis-Moore who had a 2nd or 3rd round grade entering the 2013 draft. He sat out last season on injured reserve yet one source indicated that he could make an impact in 2014.
Bye-bye Arthur, regardless of the newly found cap room.
Corey Graham has been a solid contributor for the Ravens during his two-year run yet Graham struggled at times on the defensive perimeter. He doesn’t have the great change-of-direction skills that Lardarius Webb possesses and as a result, despite being a nickel corner, he’s often at corner in nickel and dime situations as Webb moves inside.
When on the perimeter, Graham was targeted late in the season and looked like the secondary’s weak link. Waiting in the wings is Asa Jackson.
Jackson competed well during camp and in preseason he made plays in each of his first two campaigns in the league. BUT…he’s been sidelined often by suspensions for PED violations.
Jackson’s is a special case because he genuinely needs the Adderall that has triggered his unpaid vacations. He now has league approval for Adderall and the Ravens believe that he can step up as the nickel corner – otherwise they would not have patiently endured his suspensions. Jackson also has plus return skills and that could persuade the Ravens to take a wait-and-see approach with Jacoby Jones who will surely command at least the $4M that he earned in 2013.
Given his less than expected production in 2013, Haloti Ngata’s cap number is the white elephant in the office of team capologist Pat Moriarty. At $16M it is the team’s largest and his salary ($8.5M) produces the team’s biggest weekly paycheck during the season.
Ngata is just 30 years old and could be a candidate for a contract extension. The multi-Pro Bowler and the Ravens discussed such an extension but couldn’t come to terms and so the team looked to other areas to create cap space to address offseason needs.
For now, Ngata has the team by the short hairs. Releasing him would create only $1M in cap in 2014. Even if Ngata isn’t performing to the level of his contract, the team would be hard-pressed to get even substandard Ngata productivity for $1M.
That said, if Ngata’s play flattens and he doesn’t improve upon his 2013 season, he could be vulnerable to the cap cutting blade in 2015. Then the Ravens could save $8.5M in cap space by releasing him.
Perhaps 2015 will be the time when the two sides come together in the same way the Ravens did with Suggs this offseason.