Ngata trade hit Twitter before Lions told Caldwell

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Haloti Ngata

General manager Martin Mayhew recently described how the Lions landed Haloti Ngata in a trade, but president Tom Lewand shared one quirky detail last week at the team's annual town hall meeting with season-ticket holders.

According to Lewand, news of the deal with the Baltimore Ravens was on Twitter before Lions coach Jim Caldwell even knew the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was coming to Detroit.

"We literally finalized the trade with Baltimore; Martin Mayhew and I are on the phone in my office," Lewand said. "We hadn't even told Jim yet, and we're on the phone to (vice chairman) Bill Ford Jr., letting him know that the trade was finalized. And it pops up on Twitter as we're telling the owner we had just finalized it. We hadn't even told the head coach yet."

Tales like this are becoming the norm in the NFL with news of signings and trades popping up on Twitter, often before the parties involved even know. Last year, running back Darren Sproles found out he was being traded by the New Orleans Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles on Twitter, and other players have discovered their fate in similar ways.

Fortunately, Ngata didn't see the news second-hand; he said during his introductory news conference that Ravens coach John Harbaugh called to inform him of the deal that sent Ngata and a 2015 seventh-round pick to Detroit for 2015 fourth- and fifth-round picks.

Under Lewand and Mayhew, the Lions have done well to prevent untimely leaks, but clearly, Lewand wasn't too upset about the circumstances as he told the story to fans with a smile.

The Baltimore Sun reported the Ngata trade shortly before free agency began at 4 p.m. on March 10 as Ravens beat writer Aaron Wilson shared the news on Twitter.

The Lions desperately needed to find help at defensive tackle this offseason after losing Ndamukong Suh to the Dolphins in free agency and deciding not to re-sign Nick Fairley.

"There was not an opportunity in free agency, we didn't think, to add a player of Haloti Ngata's caliber," Lewand said. "These guys do not become available. Just like a guy like Suh doesn't come available on the market very often, neither does Haloti Ngata."

The gap between Twitter and the rest of the Lions staff finding out about the Ngata trade wasn't long as Lewand said he interrupted a meeting to tell people of the deal.

"The looks on the faces of these guys was like it was Christmas morning and Santa Claus had just come down the chimney," he said.

At the town hall meeting, Lions vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White said the team had a backup plan in place if Suh left that included pursuing Ngata, whether by trade or if the Ravens released him due to his $16 million cap charge in 2015. (He'll count $8.5 million against the Lions' cap and $7.5 million against Baltimore's.) White compiled a highlight tape of Ngata's 2014 season to show Mayhew on Sunday after Suh agreed in principle to his deal with the Dolphins.

"When we thought that there was an opportunity that he would become available, as soon as we got the word that Suh was going somewhere else, we pounced on it," White said.