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Lions' trade for Haloti Ngata rapidly unfolded

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
The trade for All-Pro DT Haloti Ngata, “came together really quickly, like within maybe two or three hours,”  Lions GM Martin Mayhew said.

Phoenix — When the Lions learned they wouldn't re-sign Ndamukong Suh on March 8, vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White told general manager Martin Mayhew he had cut up some game tape of Haloti Ngata for them to watch.

The next day, the Monday before free agency officially began, Mayhew called Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to see if reports that the team was considering cutting Ngata were true.

At the time, Mayhew said that Newsome told him Baltimore might keep Ngata, but a day later, Newsome called Mayhew back and said the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was on the trade block.

"That came together really quickly, like within maybe two or three hours," Mayhew told local reporters at NFL annual meetings Monday at the Arizona Biltmore resort. "My first question to him was, 'What's your time frame?' because I wanted to know where he was in the process.

"And he said, 'Whenever I get what I'm looking for, I'm ready.' So we moved forward."

Mayhew and Newsome agreed to a deal shortly before free agency began that Tuesday at 4 p.m. The Lions sent a fourth- and fifth-round pick to Baltimore for the 31-year-old Ngata and a seventh-round pick — all selections in the 2015 draft.

In addition to the Lions, two AFC teams were in the mix for Ngata, but Mayhew's offer was good enough for the Ravens, who hoped to clear some of the $16 million he would've counted on Baltimore's salary cap in 2015. Ngata has one year left on his contract and will count $8.5 million on the Lions cap and $7.5 million on Baltimore's.

Although Mayhew has stressed the importance of building through the draft during his tenure, he said the opportunity to add Ngata with Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley all free agents was too good to pass up.

"Draft picks are important. You don't ever want to give them up, and we do want to build this thing through the draft," he said. "But to be able to acquire a player like Haloti Ngata, when you look at what we had at defensive tackle at that time — losing our top three guys or having our top three guys be free agents — if you'd have told me we could've got him for what we (gave up), I would've been ecstatic to be able to add him to our football team. I thought it was worth it.

Newsome declined an interview attempt Sunday evening, but called Ngata a "good player." Former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, now head coach of the Colts, also declined an interview, but made clear he had a strong relationship with Ngata, who spent the first nine years of his career in Baltimore.

"Tell him I love him," Pagano said.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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