Contract talk behind him, Ngata relieved he can fully focus on football

How did Haloti Ngata's teammates greet the athletic defense tackle this morning after hearing of the five-year, $61 million contract he struck with the Ravens yesterday?

How else? They hit him up for a few bucks.

"Nobody asked me for a loan; they just asked me to give them money," Ngata said today, with a laugh.

Ngata has plenty of cash to pass around, now that he's finally locked up his long-awaited multi-year deal.

The Ravens and Ngata's agent had been exchanging proposals off and on since early August, and after it initially looked like yesterday's 4 p.m. deadline would pass without a contract being reached, the two sides were able to agree on a deal which will pay the two-time Pro Bowler $40 million in the first two years of his contract.

If the Ravens and Ngata had not been able to agree to terms, the 2006 first-round pick would have been forced to play out the season under the franchise tag - a one-year contract which would pay him nearly $12.5 million, but offer no security beyond this season. Ngata admitted he had no idea how the situation would play out yesterday, and said it was a huge relief when his agent told him a deal had been reached.

"Don't my shoulders look a little higher?" Ngata said. "It is a relief because I don't have to worry about it throughout the season. (I don't have to) worry about getting injured and worry about my performance. I can just go out there and play the game I want to play."

The fact that a deal was finalized was a relief for those on the organizational side of things, as well. Head coach John Harbaugh admitted he's thrilled to know he'll have Ngata under contract and tormenting opposing offenses for the next five years.

"It's big," Harbaugh said. "It sets the personality of the defense. You can talk a lot about what positions are the ones that have the most value and those kinds of things. Not all the time are defensive tackles put in that category ... (but) the impact it has on our defense - the personality, the tone he sets - we can be a dominant defense in a lot of ways because he's that presence in the middle. They always say you want to be strong up the middle, and we're pretty strong up the middle.

"Nobody's more deserving (than) Haloti Ngata of such a deal," Harbaugh added."And, I'm just really happy because of the type of person he is and the type of family (he has)."

Ask a member of the Ravens' defense about Ngata, and you'll learn just how much he's appreciated by the guys who play next to him and behind him. Linebacker Terrell Suggs routinely credits Ngata when the front-seven plays well, saying that the attention and double-teams the defensive tackle draws from the opposition makes it that much easier on the rest of the defense to get pressure and force turnovers.

"If you ask me, he's the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL," Suggs said. "His play last year helped me get back into rare form. The kid's dedication - and he's so young, still - the dedication and his physical ability is just amazing.

"So, you've got to tip off your hat to him. He's worth every penny."

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