Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is looking better than ever but is in a year where the Ravens will want to lower his salary.
The five-time Pro Bowl player still has two years left on his contract (2014 and 2015) but will count as far less dead money on the cap than his cap hit in 2015. Ngata is the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL as well as the highest amount against the Ravens' salary cap counting as $16 million against the cap both this year and next year. The Ravens would save 8.5 million next year by cutting him outright, but would likely want to restructure his contract to let him retire as a Raven and to still harness his abilities on the field.
Working against Ngata is the idea that he hasn't been consistently healthy in years. He has missed at least one game in four out of the last five years and has spent far more time not at 100%, limiting his value and production. 2013 was one of Ngata's worst years as a pro, with 52 tackles and only 1.5 sacks on the year. While Ngata is still regularly viewed as one of the best at his position (he turned down his Pro Bowl selection last year), it is clear that the beating of the trenches are catching up with him.
With Ngata clearly in the best shape of his playing career as shown by the photo, he could be gearing up for the inevitable contract negotiation at the end of the season. With that likely being his last chance at a good sized contract, having a monster year on the field would help push more leverage into Ngata's agent's hands and raise his asking price significantly. If he misses multiple games and continues a downward trend in his stats, the Ravens would likely offer him a respectful contract, but one that would be significantly lower in both a signing bonus and base salary to match his value.
There is also much speculation that Haloti Ngata might just retire at the end of the season. The Ravens reportedly offered Ngata a lucrative contract this offseason that he turned down. He has also been noted for talking about saving his body and mind for after football so that he can be there for his family. The physical toll on Ngata at this point in his eight year career including multiple injuries could be adding up to Ngata taking his final paycheck and riding off into the sun at the close of the 2014 season.