John Harbaugh on Ngata: 'He's a first-class guy'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Haloti Ngata is “first of all, a first-class guy, a family man,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about his former defensive tackle.

The Ravens hired John Harbaugh in 2008, and he spent the past seven years as Haloti Ngata's head coach.

On Tuesday, the Lions traded for Ngata, the 31-year-old nose tackle who won a Super Bowl with Harbaugh three seasons ago and made the Pro Bowl from 2009-13.

Harbaugh, the older brother of new Michigan coach Jim, said Friday he thought Baltimore would be able to work out a contract extension with Ngata and wished the Ravens could've kept him.

"The Lions from Haloti Ngata can expect a, first of all, a first-class guy, a family man," Harbaugh told reporters at Michigan's coaches clinic in Ann Arbor. "His little son, who's 5 years old, is a little 'Mini-Me' Haloti Ngata.

"I can tell you that right now, whenever he comes over to our (facility), which is quite often, the sprinklers come on after practice and I see Haloti's son running around the sprinklers. So, he gets soaking wet, but he looks just like Haloti. So, we need to get him an offer right away here at Michigan."

Lions coach Jim Caldwell made a similar joke about Ngata's oldest son, Sam, when he introduced Ngata at a news conference Wednesday. Ngata also has a 2-year-old, Max, and one-year-old, Colt, with his wife Christina.

The 340-pound Ngata will be the Lions' top interior defensive lineman after the team lost free agents Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Dolphins, and Nick Fairley, who signed with the Rams.

"He's a great football player, a run stuffer, he's a powerful inside pass rusher," Harbaugh said. "He's still got plenty left. I wish, it would've been nice to have been able to keep him. I thought that would happen actually. I thought we'd be able to come to something that would work for both of us financially, but we weren't able to do that in the end."

Ngata was set to count $16 million against the Ravens' salary cap in 2015. Unable to agree to an extension and with Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams on the roster, Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome decided to test Ngata's trade value, and the Lions gave up a fourth- and fifth-round pick in this year's draft for the defensive tackle and a seventh-round pick this year.

Ngata also said he thought he'd work something out with the Ravens, but held no ill will toward the team that drafted him 12th overall in 2006. Now, Ngata will have an $8.5 million salary cap hit for the Lions and a $7.5 million hit for the Ravens.

"Certainly no hard feelings," Harbaugh said. "I have the greatest and utmost respect for Haloti, and I know the feeling's mutual. I wish him nothing but the best here in Detroit. We are happy that he is in the NFC and not the AFC."

Angelique S. Chengelis contributed