The Lions will have the services of their veteran defensive tackle in 2017... if they want it.
Most of the retirement talk around the Detroit Lions has surrounded wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who will become a free agent on March 9. However, Haloti Ngata apparently was thinking about it, because MMQB’s Albert Breer is reporting that Ngata just recently told the Lions that he plans to play in 2017:
Per sources, Haloti Ngata informed the Lions he plans to play this year over the last couple weeks. Staff was uncertain he was returning.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 6, 2017
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, because, as Kyle Meinke pointed out, Ngata said back in January he wanted to play again next season. “Still love the game, love the guys and coaches. And so I love playing,” Ngata told MLive. “Definitely looking forward to playing another year.”
The media-driven conversation regarding Ngata’s future was more focused on what the Lions wanted to do with him. We listed Ngata as a possible cap casualty, seeing as he’s due to make $7.7 million this year, and the Lions can save $5.7 million of that by releasing him. However, Detroit is perilously thin at the position and Ngata brings a veteran presence that the Lions are currently lacking on the defensive line.
Now that Ngata has announced his intentions, the Lions need to decide their plan. Ngata had his worst statistical year in 2016, amassing just 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks. That’s a lot of scratch to pay for so little production, but Detroit may not have any other options. At least they know Ngata’s heart is still in it.