On March 18 when former Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata announced via social media that he would be retiring from the NFL, the questions started flooding in with regards to both his Ravens and NFL legacy.
Will he make the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Is he a candidate for the Ravens Ring of Honor? Will he be the type of player to sign a one-day-contract to retire as a Raven?
We’ve gotten answers to only one of those questions so far as the Ravens announced yesterday that Ngata would be signing a one-day contract to retire as a Raven and fittingly so. Ngata spent nine of his 13 NFL seasons in the purple and black and helped anchor the stout defense that Baltimore fans have come to know and love throughout the years.
The 12th-overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Oregon joined a Ravens run defense that had just finished ninth in the NFL in yards-per-game allowed. The inside stalwart helped that ranking climb to second in the league in 2006. Over his tenure in Baltimore from 2006-2014, the Ravens finished outside of the top five just twice.
Baltimore’s defense had long been known for their massive defensive front which helped Ray Lewis in establishing himself as the greatest middle linebacker of all time. But by 2006 Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa were long gone and the Ravens were in dire need of their next inside road block:
Ngata was just that throughout his tenure in Baltimore before he was traded to the Detroit Lions where he played from 2015-2017 before joining the Philadelphia Eagles last year for his final season.
Ngata’s peers have been quite complimentary of him over the years. Here are some quotes from some of his Top 100 player of the year segments from NFL Network:
New Ravens running back Mark Ingram on a play he recalls: ” Haloti pushed me off my track. I’m running backwards trying to catch the ball, and Haloti blows me out of bounds. Dude was sprinting. He’s like 300 freaking 40 pounds. I didn’t get the touchdown and it was Haloti Ngata.”
Cowboys guard Ryan Miller: “What makes Ngata good is that he is just a freak. Low to the ground. Plays with phenomenal leverage. He can get under you, through you, around you. He’s a matchup that’s nearly impossible.”
Former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith: “Haloti’s an athlete. He’s like my big brother.”
When you think of Ngata, the first thing that comes to mind is his extremely rare combination of size and athleticism. That was evident in one of his signature plays as a Raven which came in his first NFL game when he intercepted a tipped pass and rumbled 60 yards on the return. (0:41 seconds)
How about this insane effort against the Texans?
Ngata has also had some big moments against the Steelers. Remember this jarring hit on Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in the 2011 season opener?
And then there’s everyone in Baltimore’s favorite Haloti Ngata play of all time:
Watching Ben Roethlisberger bleed with his nose pointed sideways will never get old here in Baltimore.
And perhaps his second most famous play of all time involves his late-game hit on current Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012 as the Ravens took on the Redskins.
Griffin III was on his way to winning the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year award and was never the same player after that hit.
Ngata has countless other legendary plays throughout his NFL career. Over his career in Baltimore, Ngata racked up 449 tackles, 51 tackles-for-loss, 25.5 sacks, five interceptions, 74 quarterback hits, and 32 passes defensed. He added an additional 70 tackles, seven sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and eight passes defensed in his remaining four seasons.
Those numbers alone plus his five Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro selections make Ngata a surefire Ravens Ring of Honor candidate. That would be one of the two special announcements promised that I would expect to hear from Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti during this afternoon’s 3:00 press conference.
The real debate for Ngata is going to be regarding his chances to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Defensive tackle is a tough position to assess Hall of Fame merits. It’s not a sexy position and Ngata never quite had the impact of some of the defensive tackles enshrined in Canton such as Warren Sapp among others. But he was extremely effective in run game defense and helped anchor many elite Ravens defenses throughout his tenure in Baltimore.
Press Box Online‘s Bo Smolka spoke with Hall of Fame voter and 105.7 The Fan host Scott Garceau on Ngata’s chances at making the Hall of Fame. Garceau said “Former Kansas City defensive lineman Curley Culp is the best comp for Haloti.” Culp was elected by the Seniors Committee which looks at players who fell of the main ballot and have been out of football for 25 years or more.
My gut feeling mirror’s Garceau’s in that I believe Ngata belongs in the hall of very good, but not the Hall of Fame.
But his election to the Ravens Ring of Honor is merely a formality at this point. Ravens Nation will be rocking the Bank for that ceremony which will hopefully take place at some point in the 2019 season.
Image Credit: Rob Carr