The Jacksonville Jaguars are projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2020, a far cry from the team that reached the AFC Championship Game three seasons ago. Most players on that roster are gone, but two of the pillars still remain: Yannick Ngakoue and Leonard Fournette.
Ngakoue tried his exit strategy, but that fell flat on his face as the Jaguars didn't receive a single trade offer for him. Hays Carlyon, who covers the Jaguars for 1010 XL, believes Ngakoue has played his last game with the team.
Joining guest-host Sean Wagner-McGough on the Pick Six Podcast Tuesday (listen below and subscribe here for daily NFL goodness), Carlyon broke down when a deal could get done for Ngakoue.
"I still think he gets traded, I think once teams do open camp, and I think there's so much parity in the league this year where we probably have 22 teams that believe they can win the Super Bowl," Carlyon said. "One of those teams is going to get on the grass and after about a week they are going to say, we don't have the edge presence. As we get into August, if everything is on time, I think you see a deal happen at that point."
Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 14 forced fumbles in his first four NFL seasons. Since entering the NFL in 2016, Ngakoue has the fourth-most forced fumbles in the league and the eighth-most quarterback hits. He's also just one of seven players who has eight-plus sacks in each of the last four seasons.
Ngakoue had eight sacks, 15 quarterback hits, and four forced fumbles in 15 games last season, finishing with 37 pressures. While Ngakoue's 2019 season is considered a "down year" compared to 2018 (72 pressures, 9.5 sacks), he still is one of the premier pass rushers in the game.
His relationship with the Jaguars has reached the point of no return. Ngakoue and Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan had a heated Twitter exchange the week of the draft that may have damaged his trade value. The disrespect of Khan may have ultimately sealed Ngakoue's fate.
"Dave Caldwell, for all of his flaws as a general manager, he has done a good job at getting maximum value for players and trades," Carlyon said. "I think it's going to be awfully difficult for Caldwell to bring Ngakoue back into the building when Ngakoue called Tony Khan a clown. They're going to be incredibly sensitive to that.
"Frankly, I would be shocked if he ever plays for the Jaguars again."
While Ngakoue may not play a down for the Jaguars this season, this could easily be Fournette's final season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars didn't pick up Fournette's fifth-year option, basically giving him the opportunity to test the open market after the 2020 season.
"I think it's his last season in Jacksonville," Carlyon said. "And Fournette is one of their better players, but I just think, in order to move forward, I think they will go ahead and let him test the market."
Fournette had a career year in 2019, carrying the ball 265 times for 1,152 yards and three touchdowns, averaging a career-high 4.3 yards per carry. He also had 76 catches for 522 yards, finishing with 341 touches for 1,674 yards on the year. Fournette finished sixth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
"He certainly was a yardage machine last year," Carlyon said. "The only problem with Leonard is he just doesn't score much. Now, not all of that is on Leonard's shoulders, but to receive 340 touches and score three times is remarkable. ... He just doesn't have enough of that explosive ability to find the end zone. It was disappointing last year for all the touches and yards he had, he only got into the end zone three times -- all rushing.
"I think you're probably looking at a decrease in yardage production, but his touchdowns should go up just because it's hard to imagine him scoring fewer than three."
A contract year for Fournette may bring out the best in the 25-year-old back, but the Jaguars appear ready to move on. Perhaps Caldwell works out another deal at the trade deadline and receives great value for a player that looks to be on his way out.