SB Nation got the chance to sit down and talk with Football Outsiders as they release their Football Outsiders Almanac for the 2015 NFL Season. Robert Weintraub from Football Outsiders answered all of our questions as the expert. One of the most talked about decisions the Ravens made this offseason was sending defensive lineman Haloti Ngata to Detroit.
Outside of Baltimore, the move was panned as a disaster because the Ravens got very little back from the trade of an All-Pro defensive lineman. However, most fans know better and could see the writing on the wall when Ngata was refusing the Ravens' contract offers. Through getting rid of Ngata, the Ravens saved an estimated $7.5 million on this season and got something in return for a player that was likely going to hit free agency at the end of the season anyway.
Q: Haloti Ngata left baltimore and is expected to be replaced by the combination of Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Do you think the Ravens will be better off with those two players than they were with Ngata?
It depends on how you quantify "better off." In terms of pure ability, no, neither Williams nor Jernigan can ably fill Ngata’s immense shoes, certainly not yet, though Jernigan in particular is a nasty combination of penetrating quickness and athletic block-shedding. But from a salary cap, roster-building perspective, the combo will provide a large proportion of Ngata’s effectiveness for a fraction of the cost. Which will allow them to afford improvements elsewhere, etc. So big picture the Ravens should be just fine on the defensive interior.
It is true that neither player at this time can compare to a 100% healthy and mentally prepared Haloti Ngata. Ngata is a once in a generation type of talent for a defensive lineman and was the best around for quite a while. But what was not mentioned by Robert is that Ngata had been battling injuries over the last few seasons and missed a few games due to a failed drug test in 2014. The combination of missed time from injury and suspension mixed with his salary meant that the Ravens were burdened by Ngata more than helped. While no single player on the Ravens' roster can fill that void, I still contend that the young players the Ravens have on the defensive line will be mixed and matched to take on the responsibilities that Haloti had while a Raven.
As of right now, both Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams have performed better in 2015 than Ngata as Haloti is still missing time due to a hamstring injury. Meanwhile he has yet to sign any type of extension with the Detroit Lions, meaning that his one-year stay in Detroit will likely end as a disappointment for the Lions' front office.