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Baltimore Ravens give former Highland High's Haloti Ngata a new 5-year, $61 million deal

By Jeff Zrebiec

The Baltimore Sun

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 20 2011 8:56 p.m. MDT

In this Oct. 3, 2010 file photo, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (92) heads to the sidelines during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Ravens signed Ngata to a five-year, $61-million contract on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. His agent, Mike McCartney, said Ngata will get $40 million in the first two years of the deal. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Nearing a deadline to accomplish one of their stated priorities, the Baltimore Ravens reached agreement Tuesday on a long-term deal with Haloti Ngata, ensuring that one of the game's most dominant interior lineman will be a fixture on their defense for the foreseeable future.

The five-year deal is for $61 million, making Ngata one of the highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL. The deal includes $40 million over the first two years, which is essentially guaranteed.

"This is a great feeling, and I can't explain how many different emotions I have," Ngata said in a statement released by the Ravens. "What I want to do now is continue to get better every year and help the team get better.

"Our goal is to win Super Bowls, and I want to do my best to help us make that happen. ... You rarely see players around the league play with one team their entire career. For me to be here another five years is great, and I'm thankful for the opportunity the Ravens have provided me. Hopefully, I can retire here."

Ngata's agent, Mike McCartney, announced the deal being official on his Twitter account. The deal was later confirmed by the Ravens.

"I'm thrilled for Haloti and his wife, Christina," said McCartney. "It takes a lot of pressure off us and it allows him to focus on continuing to dominate like he has. He's off to a tremendous start. I do believe the opening game against Pittsburgh really played a part in this. Haloti is a special football player. He has the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. He's the total package and the Ravens clearly recognized that."

If the Ravens hadn't reached a deal with the mammoth defensive tackle by Tuesday, Ngata, 27, would have played the rest of the season under the franchise tag, and on a one-year $12.5 million deal. Now, Ngata gets the long-term security that he's been seeking, and the Ravens open up a little room under the 2011 salary cap.

"This is another commitment from (owner) Steve Bisciotti making sure we keep our best players," Ravens' general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement through the team. "Haloti's re-signing is significant as we push to win consistently and battle for championships. His leadership is not only integral to our defense, but also the entire team."

Ngata, a former Highland High School star who played collegiately at Oregon, was a first-round pick who has developed into the Ravens' latest defensive star. He is a two-time Pro Bowl performer and he's playing at an even higher level this season. In the Ravens' 35-7 season-opening win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ngata had four tackles, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a batted pass which led to an interception.

He followed that up by making six tackles and deflecting a pass that resulted in a Terrell Suggs' interception in the Ravens' 26-13 loss Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

In five-plus seasons since the Ravens selected him with the 12th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Ngata has started 78 of 80 games and recorded 338 total tackles, 12 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

He's also been a force in eight playoff games, totaling 30 tackles and 21/2 sacks.

At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, Ngata is a great run-stopper who occupies space and blockers, and he gives linebacker Ray Lewis freedom to roam and make plays. Since Ngata joined the team in 2006, the Ravens have allowed a league-low 31 rushing touchdowns in 80 regular-season games.

He was a big reason that the Ravens' rushing defense went 39 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, a streak that ended in the middle of the 2009 season. The Ravens have been a top five rushing defense in the NFL every season since Ngata's arrival.

However, Ngata, a former standout at the University of Oregon, is hardly just a one-dimensional run stopper. With uncanny athleticism for somebody his size, Ngata has become a force on the pass rush, either getting to the quarterback himself or deflecting attention and double teams away from other Ravens.

"(Ngata) allows me to make a lot of plays," Suggs said after the team's Week 1 victory over Pittsburgh. "You got to understand, he's a man among boys. Him and (the Detroit Lions') Ndamukong Suh are the best two defensive tackles in the NFL. When you have a guy like that lining up next to you, you've got to deal with him. I think that's why I'm successful because of my counterpart, No.92. "

The Ravens have long recognized the importance of getting Ngata signed to a long-term deal. Even after Ngata signed the $12.5 million, one-year franchise tender in March, Ravens GM Newsome made it known that the team's priority was to reach an extension.

They made steady progress until a deal finally got done less than an hour before the established 4 p.m. deadline for teams to reach a new contract with their franchise players.

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