Ngata given franchise tag; Ravens hope lengthy deal follows

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Haloti Ngata received the franchise tag from the Baltimore Ravens, who ultimately hope to sign the Pro Bowl defensive tackle to a lengthy contract.

"The tender allows us to secure Haloti as a Raven right now," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Tuesday in a statement released by the team. "As we have said, our intention is to enter into a long-term contract with him. We want him to be a Raven."

Ngata was placed in the non-exclusive franchise category, which means he can negotiate with other teams. But Baltimore would have the right to match the offer or receive two first-round draft picks if he signs elsewhere.

Because of the NFL's uncertain labor situation, the franchise tag could be dissolved after the current CBA expires March 3.

If the franchise tag continues to exist, Ngata will make the average of the top-five salaries at his position, which could be $12.5 million.

Ngata was drafted by the Ravens in 2006 with the 12th overall pick. He had 65 tackles and a career-high 5½ sacks this season and made the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive year.

Ngata has missed just two games in his five seasons with the Ravens.

The last two players to be franchised by the Ravens, linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Chris McAlister, received long-term contracts from the team.

After the Ravens were eliminated from the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers last month, coach John Harbaugh said keeping Ngata was "priority No. 1" during the offseason.

"It's really important," Harbaugh said. "I believe Haloti Ngata will be a Raven for life. That's the goal. I know that Haloti wants that. He's told me that he wants to be here. I don't want to speak for him, again, but I think he wants to be here, and I believe the organization wants him here."

At Baltimore's season-ending news conference, Newsome said: "I don't think, other than maybe preparing for the draft, there is any other thing that has the most importance to me than to bring a player (back) like Haloti, get him under contract.

"And, history within this organization proves that we will do that. When you go to Ray (Lewis) to Jonathan (Ogden) to Ed (Reed), we've always demonstrated our abilities that players that perform well get the opportunity to play here for a long time."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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