Our 2016 Detroit Lions roster review continues with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Expectations before 2016
Acquired from the Baltimore Ravens before the 2015 draft, the Lions had apparently identified Haloti Ngata as their Ndamukong Suh replacement. Despite an underwhelming first season with Detroit, Ngata was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal in March 2016.
Ngata was never going to be able to completely fill the void in the middle of the Lions defensive line, but hopes were much higher than his 2015 output. Several strong seasons in Baltimore gave him a sizable reputation, but only so much can be expected from a defensive tackle on the wrong side of 30.
Nevertheless, the Lions made the decision to bring him back for a couple seasons, mostly due to necessity. Without any other true options at the position, they had few choices but to re-sign Ngata and hope that his second season in Detroit would yield more productivity.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 13 games (13 starts) | 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks
The stat line was nothing to brag about for Ngata in 2016. He recorded a career-low 11 tackles and tallied just 1.5 sacks, both figures behind his 2015 marks. He did show up in the playoffs, notching two tackles and one sack, but that was not enough to salvage his otherwise poor season.
Pro Football Focus gave him a 47.8 grade for the year, which was just the 69th best grade for an interior rusher. While this number was pretty low, it was comparable to those of teammates A’Shawn Robinson and Tyrunn Walker, highlighting just how badly the Lions struggled at the defensive tackle position.
Ngata missed three games during the middle of the season with a shoulder injury, which is not a completely new trend. He has not played in all 16 games since 2011, and he missed a couple of weeks during his first season with the Lions as well.
Outlook for 2017
Thanks to some interesting contract structuring, Ngata is owed $7.75 million in total for 2017, but could be cut with only $2 million remaining in dead money. If the Lions want to save some cash, he would be one of the first names considered.
However, cutting Ngata may leave too big of a hole in the middle of the line. Even though he has been less than stellar, the other options at defense tackle are very limited and unlikely to produce results that are any better. Because of this, the Lions are likely to keep him for the last year of his contract.
There is always the possibility that the Lions look to make an upgrade in free agency or through the draft, but with so many other issues on defense and a young starter slotted into the other tackle position, releasing Ngata is probably not worth the complication.
Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky, Devin Taylor, Rafael Bush, Don Muhlbach, Larry Warford, Andre Roberts, TJ Jones, Kerry Hyder, Jon Bostic, Marvin Jones, Alex Carter, Tim Wright, Armonty Bryant, Clay Harbor, Crezdon Butler, Matthew Mulligan, Asa Jackson, Tyrunn Walker, Josh Bynes, Stefan Charles, Cornelius Lucas, Steve Longa, Joique Bell, Taylor Decker, Garrett Reynolds, Jake Rudock, Tavon Wilson, Ameer Abdullah, Ezekiel Ansah