The official start of the 2015 NFL season commenced with a bang as two blockbuster deals came to fruition just before the 4 p.m. start of free agency.
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The New Orleans Saints agreed to send Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks in exchange for Max Unger and a first-round pick. However, and more importantly to Baltimore Ravens fans, Haloti Ngata is on the move to Detroit.
The Ravens made every attempt to keep the high-priced defensive tackle, but with the deadline looming, they were forced to make a decision. Ngata refused to take a pay cut and the Ravens dealt him for a fourth and fifth-round pick.
For the Lions, it’s a significant replacement for Ndamukong Suh, who will sign a $114 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. The deal will make him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. The Lions have also allowed Nick Fairly to explore free agency, so Ngata certainly fills the need on the defensive line.
Ngata will reunite with Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin who each spent time with the Ravens before moving to Detroit. It will be interesting to see if the Lions are willing to pay Ngata after balking at Suh’s asking price.
Replacing the five time Pro Bowler will be tough. He has been the Ravens anchor along the defensive line and mauls his opponents regardless of the position he lines up at.
For the Ravens, it is a game changer in how they can approach this offseason. The move freed up $8.5 million in cap space and they picked up two more draft picks in the process. They now have eight picks in the 2015 Draft and that number will increase once compensatory picks are solidified.
With Ngata headed to the Motor City, the logical replacement on the defensive line will be second-rounder Timmy Jernigan. He totaled 10 tackles and two sacks when Ngata was suspended for the final four regular seasons games for Adderall use.
If you’re looking for something to laugh about in all this, the Lions will carry $9.7 million in dead money for Suh. The Ravens will carry $7.5 million in dead money for the Ngata.
Funny how things work out.