Late For Work 11/14: Haloti Ngata Making Offseason Decisions Difficult

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Ngata Making Offseason Decisions Difficult
Defensive back Haloti Nga-

I mean, defensive* tackle* Haloti Ngata is having himself a huge year.

He's been such a big playmaker that his stats look like he's playing in the secondary, tied for the team lead with two interceptions, seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Not to mention, he's a big reason the Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 20 games.

Personally, his timing couldn't be better, as analysts have been speculating for nearly a year that Ngata's lucrative contract will get addressed this offseason. His production is obviously welcomed by the team, but could complicate potential upcoming contract negotiations.

"The future of [Ngata] beyond this season has been discussed for quite some time, but his strong play is creating quite a dilemma for the Ravens this winter," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.

Ngata is not scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, but many expect the Ravens to approach him with an extension offer as he heads into the final year of his contract, just like they did with Terrell Suggs last February. An extension would bring down Ngata's 2015 salary cap number and extend the number of years on his deal to ensure he becomes a Raven for life.

"After two underwhelming seasons for his high standards, some predicted this could be Ngata's final year in Baltimore as he's scheduled to carry a $16 million salary-cap figure in 2015 — the final season of a five-year, $61 million contract inked in 2011 — but his excellent start may have altered that line of thinking," wrote Jones.

"Last offseason, General Manager Ozzie Newsome pursued a contract extension with Ngata … but talks didn't go anywhere. A good finish to 2014 might further complicate discussions as the Ravens obviously won't want to stomach a $16 million cap hit to allow Ngata to play out the final year of his current contract, but his asking price for an extension only climbs as he continues to play well."

If Ngata were unwilling to budge, the other option would be to release him, creating a reported $8.5 million in cap space. But it would also create $7.5 million in dead money.

And you don't just replace a guy like Ngata, especially when he is healthy.

"[T]he Ravens wouldn't easily replace his presence at defensive tackle," Jones wrote.

"Of course, the overall depth along the defensive line has improved with the emergence of second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams and the recent play of rookie Timmy Jernigan, two players who figure to play major roles for the unit in the coming years. Their presence has taken pressure off Ngata, but they also force Newsome and the front office to carefully weigh how much they should pay the five-time Pro Bowl selection as he turns 31 in January."

Miami A Real Threat In AFC Wild-Card Race

By beating the Buffalo Bills, 22-9, on national television last night, the Miami Dolphins propelled themselves above the Ravens in the race for a wild-card spot.

The Dolphins have an identical 6-4 record with the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, but win the AFC record tiebreaker. Keep an eye on Miami, as it has two games remaining against the 2-8 New York Jets and one against the 4-5 Vikings. And of course, there is still a head-to-head matchup with Baltimore.

"The Dolphins' third-toughest game remaining — a December 7 meeting with visiting Baltimore — could have a significant impact on the wild-card race," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Wilkening.

Here's how the race currently stacks up, per NFL.com

Playoff Bound1. New England Patriots: 7-2, .778
2. Denver Broncos: 7-2, .778
3. Indianapolis Colts: 6-3, .667
4. Cleveland Browns: 6-3, .667
5. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-3, .667 (wild card No. 1)
6. Cincinnati Bengals: 5-3-1, .611 (wild card No. 2)

In the hunt7. Miami Dolphins: 6-4, .600 (beat Steelers with better AFC record)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-4, .600 (beats Ravens with better division record)
9. Baltimore Ravens: 6-4, .600
10. San Diego Chargers: 5-4, .556

Will Mosley Hit Wall?

Few first-year players find their way around the "rookie wall." But can C.J. Mosley do it?

"Mosley has been excellent on the field, but you have to wonder when he is going to hit the proverbial rookie wall," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston.

Preston points out that in their final college year, prospects play in the regular season, a bowl game and maybe an all-star game. Then it's the NFL combine, mini-camps after the draft, training camp, a busy preseason and the grueling 16-game NFL season.

They really don't get a break.

"Keeping an eye on Mosley will be as interesting as watching veteran players like Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith, Steve Smith and Chris Canty at the end of the season to see how much they have left," Preston wrote.

Kubiak Still Feeling Healthy After Scare

It's been just over a year since Gary Kubiak was taken off the field on stretcher after he collapsed near the Houston Texans sideline just before halftime of a game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Kubiak, 53, has been in a different role, moving from head coach to offensive coordinator in Baltimore, and feels a lot better.

"I think I'm all right. Do I look all right?" Kubiak asked reporters Tuesday, as EPSN's Jamison Hensley noted. "This league will give you some health issues." 

Turned out Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke that day, but he only missed one game and returned eight days later. On Tuesday, he admitted he's ready for the rest that comes with the bye week, but is ready to lead his unit to a final playoff push.

"It's Week 10 in the NFL. I think everybody is a little tired right now," Kubiak said. "We have the bye week this week, so I know I'm looking forward to it just like everybody else, getting a little rest and getting fresh for these last six weeks. But I've really enjoyed myself.

"I've been very challenged, trying to put in a new offense and do it really quickly. … But I've enjoyed myself. I'm really looking forward to this run we have coming. [We have] some big games to play in and we need to play well."

Kubiak's Aggressive Lobbying Why Forsett Chose Baltimore

You can thank Kubiak for getting Justin Forsett, who is now the league's No. 4 rusher, to come to Baltimore.

When asked what attracted him in the offseason to the Ravens, Forsett made it clear. "For one, Gary Kubiak. I had a relationship with him in Houston. He stood on a table to get me in Baltimore and I knew I could trust him," Forsett says in the ProFootballTalk.com video below (mobile users tap "View in browser" to watch. "At least, I knew I was going to get an opportunity from him. So, that's what brought me here."

Quick Hits

Let's get a look at what players are up to so far during their bye-week vacations …

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