Haloti Ngata was in the midst of a resurgent year, one where he was proving the Ravens should lock him up to another long-term deal so he could be in Baltimore his entire career.
Then, this suspension happened.
Ngata will miss the remaining four games of the regular season and lose $2 million of his 2014 salary as a result. He admitted to taking Adderall, which triggered the automatic ban under the performance-enhancing drugs policy. This hurts a defense that has relied so much on the front seven to take pressure off a struggling secondary. Now, one of its top players is out of action at the most important time of the year.
The Ravens will now get a better look at rookie Timmy Jernigan, the next man up behind Ngata. Jernigan has had a solid rookie campaign but has been a rotational player primarily. His responsibilities increase exponentially as he tries to fill the void left by one of the league's better defensive tackles.
For Ngata's sake, he needs to hope the Ravens reach the playoffs so he can show once again why he needs to be on this roster. If Jernigan performs well and the Ravens don't reach the playoffs, the Ravens may begin thinking of moving on from Ngata. Taking the hit on $7.5 million of dead money may actually seem like a better option than the full $16 million cap attached to his name in 2015, the final year of the contract he signed in 2011. Up to this point, negotiations haven't been reported to take place.
Of course, if this scenario plays out, it wouldn't be out of the question for Ngata to agree to a cap-friendly extension based on this blunder. This is a huge letdown from a player that's otherwise been a role model in the community and a leader in the locker room. If the Ravens say they'll stick with him if he'll do the same, maybe an agreement could be made to keep him for far less than his 2015 cap hit. Ngata's leverage for an expensive extension just took a huge hit.
Then again, Ngata is 30 at a position that has plenty of injury risks on each play. If the Ravens like what they see in Jernigan, it wouldn't be out of the question to simply move on and build for the future.