Lions acquire Haloti Ngata from Ravens to replace Ndamukong Suh
The Ravens confirmed the trade just before the 4 p.m. ET start of free agency Tuesday. The MMQB's Peter King tweeted that Detroit will send fourth- and fifth-round draft picks back to Baltimore, and the Lions will also get seventh-round pick in the deal.
Ngata, 31, has one year left on his current contract but carried a $16 million cap hit for the Ravens. The Lions will pick up the $8.5 million base-salary portion of that deal, with the remainder staying on Baltimore's books in dead money. (They actually owe Suh more than that in dead money, at $9.7 million.) Detroit may try to restructure Ngata's deal in order to keep the five-time Pro Bowler around past 2015, though a similar tact reportedly fell through in Baltimore, likely leading to this trade.
In the immediate future, though, Ngata helps Detroit stop the bleeding caused by Suh's imminent departure. The Lions declined to use the franchise tag on their superstar defensive tackle, then came up short of the $19 million-per-year, $60 million-guaranteed offer that Miami is believed to have handed Suh.
Suh's running partner at defensive tackle for the past four seasons, Nick Fairley, also became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.
The arrival of the 335-pound Ngata could signal a shift for the Lions from their 4-3 defense into a 3-4, which Baltimore runs. Ngata was most effective as a 3-4 DE for the Ravens, though he also spent time at the nose-tackle spot. While thinned out along the interior, Detroit does have a promising set of edge players, starting with DE Ziggy Ansah. Either way, Detroit's coaching staff should have a pretty good idea of how it will use Ngata, what with head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin having served together on Baltimore's staff from 2012-13.
The Ravens, meanwhile, stood their ground with regards to Ngata's contract. They obviously lost a longtime lineman because of that approach, but it was possible that Baltimore would have released Ngata anyway had this trade not come to pass. The two draft picks, even in the mid-rounds, sweetened the pot.
Ngata does not provide the pass-rushing punch of Suh—although, perhaps no other interior defensive lineman can—but he remains formidable against the run. Since Detroit no longer can build its defense around Suh's talents, Ngata is a solid fallback play.
Grade for Detroit: B-plus
[daily_cut.nfl]Ngata is 31 and probably will not handle the same snap-count workload that Suh did, but he's still a serious handful up front. Other than a four-game suspension to close 2014, Ngata never missed more than two games in any of his nine Baltimore seasons. Coughing up multiple draft picks may not be ideal, but keeping them both on Day 3 will lessen any hit.
Can Detroit get Ngata's contract restructured or is this a one-year stopgap solution? The wheels are in motion on that answer, as well as on how exactly Ngata's arrival impacts Detroit's scheme. Should Ngata push toward becoming a 2016 free agent, the Lions won't come out feeling quite as good.
Strictly viewed within the 2015 window, however, this is a significant pickup for Detroit.
Grade for Baltimore: B
Tough spot for the Ravens, with Ngata reportedly unwilling to help lower his cap hit this season. Without question, a trade for draft picks was preferable to simply letting Ngata walk. It's still nowhere near as ideal as keeping Ngata in the fold.
The combination of some depth along the D-line and Ngata's massive cap hit forced GM Ozzie Newsome's hand. Newsome gets and deserves the benefit of the doubt on most moves, so we have to assume this was the only legitimate option.