As Suh makes departure official, Lions welcome Ngata
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew got right to the point when he introduced newly acquired defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
“When you lose a guy as talented as Ndamukong Suh, to have the ability to replace him with a guy like Haloti Ngata really alleviates a lot of the concern about the defensive tackle position,” Mayhew said. “So we’re very, very thrilled to have him.”
Any more answers from the front office about Suh’s departure will have to wait, since Mayhew and the Lions’ brass left without taking questions Wednesday, but Ngata’s arrival took at least some of the sting out of a rough start to free agency for Detroit.
It may take more than one player to replace Suh, but in Ngata, Detroit brought in a five-time Pro Bowler whose 6-foot-4, 340-pound frame is an impressive presence on the line of scrimmage.
“I know Ndamukong Suh was a great player. We’re totally different type of players. I’m here to be me and not be Ndamukong Suh,” Ngata said. “Hopefully I can continue to make an impact on this team. That’s why they brought me here.”
After five seasons in Detroit, Suh made his departure official Wednesday, signing a $114 million, six-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.
As Suh was leaving via free agency, the Lions were taking advantage of another player’s contract uncertainty. The Baltimore Ravens were hoping to renegotiate the 31-year-old Ngata’s deal, but they ended up trading him to the Lions instead. Ngata is due $8.5 million next season.
Ngata says he’s open to the possibility of a contract extension with Detroit. He was asked how much he has left after nine NFL seasons.
“About 10 years,” he joked. “I’m just playing. You know, whatever happens is going to happen. It will be a decision between my wife and I. If it’s time, then we’ll know. But right now I feel like I can play. We’ll just deal with it as that.”
Ngata has 25 1/2 sacks in his career, 10 1/2 fewer than Suh, but if Ngata can clog up opposing running games, that could go a long way toward keeping the Lions among the top defenses in the NFL.
Detroit ranked No. 2 in the league in total defense last season and No. 1 against the run. It remains to be seen how much of that was because of Suh.
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was on Baltimore’s staff before coming to Detroit, so he’s seen first-hand what Ngata is capable of.
“We know what we expect from our defense and what we aspire to be and the goals that we want to accomplish,” Austin said. “Haloti’s going to help us get there. I’m just pleased, super pleased that we were able to bring him in the fold, to get him on our team.”
Ngata said he was picking his son up from school when Ravens coach John Harbaugh called to tell him he was being traded. Ngata has played his entire career with Baltimore since being drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 2006. Of the 135 games he’s played, 133 have been starts.
Last season, he started 12 games before serving a four-game suspension for using Adderall. Although he returned for the playoffs, that suspension still fuels him a bit.
“It made me, I guess, witness football without playing football,” Ngata said. “It definitely made me miss it a lot more, and so maybe now I just want to make a comeback.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP_NFL