As if Sunday’s last-second home lost to San Diego wasn’t tough enough on Baltimore sports fans (combined with yesterday’s departure of long-time Oriole, Nick Markakis), today’s news that Ravens DT Haloti Ngata has been suspended for the final four regular season games for using Adderall is a real gut punch.
The loss of Ngata, who was having somewhat of a resurgent season, will really hurt an already porous Ravens defense and does bring into question how this suspension will affect the anticipated contract extension negotiations set for this coming offseason.
Given that the Ravens were reportedly blindsided and angry about the suspension, it makes one wonder if Ngata has perhaps played his last game in a Ravens uniform (if they don’t advance to the playoffs).
The next four games are a really double-edged sword for Ngata, because, even with him, the playoffs seemed like an uphill battle; however, if the Ravens’ defense somehow plays better down the stretch, it may show that the team can live without him in 2015.
Next season is the last year of Ngata’s 5-year, $61M contract and he is set to have a base salary of $8.5M and a Cap number of $16M.
With an already tight 2015 Salary Cap (close to $138M committed to an anticipated Cap of $143M, with only 41 players under contract), the Ravens were already going to have to address Ngata’s prohibitive Cap number in some way. The expectation was however, that the Ravens would attempt to lessen that $16M Cap number by signing Ngata to a contract extension similar to the one they gave LB Terrell Suggs (5 yrs./$28.5M) last offseason.
Now, the question has to be asked if the Ravens might instead strongly consider releasing Ngata, thereby creating $8.5M in Cap savings.
As far as the rest of 2014 goes, the Ngata suspension does provide the Ravens with some Salary Cap relief because players are not paid while on suspension. Ngata is going to lose $2M (4/17ths of his $8.5M base salary) due to the suspension and the Ravens will receive a credit against the Cap in that amount.
The only bright side in all of this is that the Ravens will likely be able to carry that additional $2M in Cap space over into 2015 to help offset that tight Cap situation.
There is one other Cap-related consideration involved. The NFL’s CBA allows for teams to seek “salary forfeiture” of the bonus money paid to a player if the player becomes “unavailable” due to suspension, holdout or retirement. Article IV, Section 9(a)(iii) states as follows:
(iii) Regular Season. If the player is not subject to Subsection (ii) above, and commits a Forfeitable Breach for the first time that League Year during the regular season, the player may be required to forfeit up to twenty-five percent (25%) of his Forfeitable Salary Allocations upon missing his first regular season game. If player’s Forfeitable Breach continues beyond four (4) consecutive weeks, then player may be required to forfeit up to his remaining Forfeitable Salary Allocations on a proportionate weekly basis (i.e., one-seventeenth for each missed regular season week after the fourth week).
This would allow the Ravens to recover 25% of Ngata’s $5M bonus proration from his 2011 Signing bonus (the “Forfeitable Salary Allocation”) based on the four-game suspension. The question, though, is whether Ngata will be around in 2015 to have any salary to forfeit? If he is released, then the team has nothing to seek forfeiture from. It is also likely that if a contract extension is negotiated, that this issue will be resolved within those negotiations, so that the team will technically not pursue any forfeiture.
So, it is likely that the only way the Ravens could seek salary forfeiture is if Ngata plays out the final year of his contract. That would seem to be highly unlikely, but if it somehow played out that way, the Ravens could seek salary forfeiture of $1.25M (25% of his 2014 “forfeitable salary allocation” of $5M – basically 25% of the $5M bonus proration from his original $25M signing bonus).
Ugh. As always when it comes to the Ravens, there’s never a dull moment!