Trying to replace Ndamukong Suh would be imposing for most players.
But it won’t be that way for someone with the experience, track record and stature of Haloti Ngata.
The Detroit Lions made a trade Tuesday afternoon to help ease the pain of losing Suh in free agency, acquiring Ngata, a five-time All-Pro, from the Baltimore Ravens.
The move came as the Lions were on the verge of officially losing Suh, a free agent who played his first five years in Detroit, to the Miami Dolphins.
The Lions confirmed that they gave up fourth- and fifth-round draft picks this year, while adding a seventh-rounder, to complete the deal.
Under the circumstances, the Lions couldn’t have responded much better after getting snubbed by Suh.
Ngata, considered one of the game’s top run-stuffers, is entering the final season of a five-year, $61 million contract. The Ravens were looking to trade him to clear cap space. He will count $8.5 million against the Lions’ cap.
The trade won’t be official until after Ngata passes a physical. He’s expected to be introduced Wednesday during a news conference at the team’s headquarters in Allen Park, Mich.
Ngata, 31, is a 6-foot-4, 340-pound nose tackle who’s been named to the Pro Bowl team five times, most recently in 2013. He was a first-round draft pick, 12th overall, by the Ravens in 2006 coming out of the University of Oregon.
Ngata had 31 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 12 games last season for the Ravens. He was suspended for four games after violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Former NFL general manager Bill Polian, an ESPN analyst who will inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, said that Ngata is "far from Ndamukong Suh," but that he’s a "great get for the Lions."
Ngata was part of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship team three seasons ago that included Lions coach Jim Caldwell (then the Ravens’ offensive coordinator), Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin (then the Ravens’ secondary coach) and current Lions safety James Ihedigbo.
"A lot of times with these trades, familiarity is the key," said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who was a scout for the Ravens when they drafted Ngata. "When you look at Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin, both having come from Baltimore and knowing what kind of worker they’re getting in Haloti Ngata, not to mention what you’re getting on the football field."
Jeremiah said he believes last year’s suspension had a big impact on Ngata.
"He got a taste of life without football and did not like it," Jeremiah said. "I think you’ll see a very motivated Haloti Ngata in Detroit."
Ngata is used to playing in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but he’s capable of playing all three of the tackle positions and will fit in just fine if the Lions stick with a 4-3.
Ihedigbo, who signed as a free agent last year with the Lions after playing in Baltimore, is impressed with how the team reacted to Suh’s departure.
"You lose Suh and you say, ‘OK, he’s a one-of-a-kind player in this league,’ but so is Haloti Ngata," Ihedigbo told the FOX television affiliate in Detroit. "Haloti’s one of those rare guys in the NFL that there’s not going to be too many like him after.
"It’s phenomenal. He’s been a dominant force for years. Adding that to what we already have is a perfect match."
— The Lions also re-signed reserve linebacker Josh Bynes, another former teammate of Ngata’s in Baltimore.
Bynes contributed mostly on special teams last season for the Lions after being signed off the Ravens’ practice squad.
He made the announcement on Twitter while also welcoming Ngata to the team.
Truly excited to be going bak to Detroit! Definitely a blessing!! Crazy to hear also welcome my bro @Haloti_Ngata92 to the D!! #LionsDen