The Eagles have found some depth for the interior of their defensive line.
Five-time Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata plans on signing with the Eagles on a one-year deal when free agency kicks off on Wednesday, according to ESPN.
While the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett said the deal isn’t yet done, it appears that the Eagles are getting a big piece (literally) of their free agent puzzle.
Ngata, 34, is past his prime, when he helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII and when he went to five straight Pro Bowls, but the big defensive tackle will offer the Eagles depth once Beau Allen departs in free agency. Allen is expected to land elsewhere with a sizable contract. He sent out a farewell message to the Eagles on Instagram early Tuesday afternoon. With Allen’s expected departure, defensive tackle depth was sneakily a big need for the Eagles.
Had Allen walked and the Eagles not replaced him, their top backup DT would have been Destiny Vaeao, who was undrafted a couple years ago. Instead, they picked up a big name who might still have something left in the tank, especially in the Eagles’ rotation.
At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Ngata has played as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense and then as a defensive tackle in the Lions’ 4-3 defense. He’s been able to move very well during his 12-year career even at his enormous size.
While he played just five games for the Lions last season, his impact was clear. With Ngata in the lineup, the Lions gave up just 74.6 rushing yards per game. Without him in the final 11 games, that number ballooned to 129.7. There were other factors that went into it, but Ngata is good against the run, and he’ll be added to the NFL’s best run defense from 2017.
After turning 34 in January, Ngata will be the Eagles’ second-oldest player behind 36-year-old Jason Peters when the DT signs Wednesday. Bringing in another aging veteran on a one-year deal follows the path the Eagles set last year. They are trying to win this year but aren’t tying themselves to an older player long-term.
While he comes with a bigger name, at this point in his career, Ngata won’t demand a huge salary. That’s good news for the cap-strapped Eagles.
In 2017, Ngata played just five games for the Lions before a torn biceps landed him on IR. He played three seasons in Detroit after playing the first nine years of his career in Baltimore.
The Joe Douglas influence on this deal is again easy to see. Douglas, the Eagles vice president of player personnel, was with the Ravens from 2000-2015. Ngata is just the latest former Ravens player — Torrey Smith, Tim Jernigan, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe — to come to the Eagles.
In 2018, the Eagles will likely start Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan at defensive tackle, but Ngata will be the top backup. They will also have Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham and (maybe) Vinny Curry as defensive ends with the ability to play inside on passing downs. That’s not even including other key players Chris Long and Derek Barnett.
The Eagles, who already had one of the scarier defensive lines in the NFL, just added another huge depth piece.