Ravens, Ngata deadlocked

OWINGS MILLS -- As the final hours approach before the Baltimore Ravens report to training camp in Westminster today, the team remains deadlocked in negotiations with top draft pick Haloti Ngata. The two sides are believed to be far apart, and no deal appears imminent with the 350-pound defensive tackle and No. 12 overall selection of the first round.

An apparent major obstacle to brokering a deal with Ngata -- the Ravens' lone unsigned draft pick -- is the contract of the player drafted one pick below him: Cleveland Browns rookie outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.

Wimbley's six-year, $23.7 million contract includes $9.3 million in guaranteed money and a voidable year after his fifth season.

The deal is drawing harsh scrutiny by the football industry because Wimbley's agent, Joe Linta, also represents Browns coach Romeo Crennel. Several agents have raised the issue of whether a conflict of interest exists, and if Wimbley's deal is lucrative enough in comparison to what the previous No. 13 pick received.

Linta has said that Wimbley's guaranteed money represents a 9.5 percent increase over last year. However, guaranteed money can be calculated many ways. A separate interpretation suggests that Wimbley will only receive a 5 percent increase in guaranteed money.

Under the NFL slotting principle, Ngata is supposed to receive a higher contract than Wimbley. Shawne Merriman -- last year's No. 12 overall pick -- got a five-year, $11.3 million contract that included $9 million in guaranteed money with a maximum contract value of $15.7 million if escalator clauses are triggered.
The majority of teams are trying to hold first-round draft picks to 5 to 7 percent increases while agents are lobbying for a 7 to 9 percent increase over last year's picks.

The Wimbley contract, especially the six-year length, is reportedly one of the chief issues that has caused a stalemate between the Philadelphia Eagles and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, the No. 14 pick who's seeking a five-year deal. If that deal is completed, which appears unlikely, it would likely assist the Ravens' talks.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the rookie pool has increased roughly 5 percent while base salaries have risen 20 percent. The Ravens' rookie pool number is $4.7 million and ranks 10th highest in the NFL.

Ngata's agent, Mike McCartney, who also represents unsigned Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk (the No. 5 overall pick), didn't return telephone calls.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who has signed nine of his 10 draft picks, declined to predict Wednesday whether a deal will be struck in time for Ngata to participate in the first practice Friday morning at McDaniel College.

"We're negotiating," Newsome said. "We're working hard at it."

NOTES: Shirrel Ogden, the father of Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, died Wednesday in Washington, according to former Ravens lineman Marques Ogden, Jonathan Ogden's younger brother. The elder Ogden was a fixture at practices and games ever since the Ravens drafted his oldest son in 1996 with the first pick in team history. He had a long history of health issues. … Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who underwent hamstring surgery in December, is expected to practice Friday. … The Ravens' home single-game ticket sales will be held Friday at 10 a.m. with all sales going through TicketMaster.

Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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