Yannick Ngakoue wants to be a free agent, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have other plans for the 25-year old pass rusher as the in the hopes of signing him to a long-term deal. This is where things could get tricky. Ngakoue has revealed on Twitter he no longer has any interest in signing a long-term deal in Jacksonville and is "looking forward to continuing his career elsewhere." Even if Jacksonville places the tag on Ngakoue, he doesn't want to be there for the 2020 season and beyond, making him arguably the most coveted pass rusher on the trade market.
The price to acquire Ngakoue will be high based on his incredible production early in his career. Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 14 forced fumbles in his first four 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 that has eight-plus sacks in each of the last four seasons. Not bad for the No. 69 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Ngakoue is an elite pass rusher and teams would be foolish to ignore that. There are certain players that are pure difference-makers on defense and Ngakoue is one of them.
Top landing spots for Ngakoue
The market for Ngakoue will heat up now that the pass rusher has made himself available, but if Jacksonville does decide to use the franchise tag on him, it will likely cost another team at least one draft pick. There are plenty of teams that could use an elite pass rusher like Ngakoue -- the New York Giants come to mind first. in Jadeveon Clowney, according to one report, and the Giants are clearly in the market for a pass rusher to anchor Patrick Graham's defense (they finished tied for 22nd in the NFL in sacks) ... and were reportedly interested in Ngakoue if he hits the free agent market. Would the Giants decide to pay the Jaguars a king's ransom for Ngakoue?
The Buffalo Bills are another team that could kick the tires on Ngakoue, especially since the Bills have nine draft picks in the 2020 draft (only one in the first four rounds) and eight in the 2021 draft (same scenario as 2020). Buffalo has a projected $94.08 million in salary cap space (factoring in the $11.8 million cap raise plus the Over The Cap projection), giving them plenty of room to give Ngakoue the high salary he's coveting.
The Miami Dolphins have the most draft capital if they wish to make a run at Ngakoue (and the opportunity to keep him in Florida). Miami has three first-round draft picks and two second-round picks in the 2020 draft. The Dolphins also have two first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2021, giving them plenty of ammunition to make a run at Ngakoue if they so choose. If Miami doesn't want to trade up in the 2020 draft for a quarterback, perhaps the Dolphins make a run at Ngakoue.
There are other teams that could show interest in Ngakoue, specifically the Philadelphia Eagles since Ngakoue fits the bill of the franchise's philosophy of signing players heading into their second contract. If the price lowers for Ngakoue, Philadelphia may emerge as a front-runner for his services. The Eagles have one pick in each of the first four rounds in 2020 and one pick in each of the first three rounds in 2021. Jacksonville may want to move Ngakoue to the NFC and out of the conference, which would help the Eagles.
If both the Giants and Eagles, or any combination of teams, decide to make a run at Ngakoue, the Jaguars will benefit as it will drum up more trade interest.
Projected market value for Ngakoue in free agency
Slapping the franchise tag on Ngakoue would net him a projected salary of $19.316 million for 2020 (per Over The Cap), making him the third highest-paid defensive end in terms of average annual salary (per Spotrac). Ngakoue has reportedly sought a deal that would pay him up to $22 million annually with the Jaguars last August, which would make him the highest-paid defensive end in the NFL (higher then DeMarcus Lawrence's $21 million average).
A new contract can be determined later. How much will a team have to give the Jaguars in order to acquire Ngakoue? Based on the market for pass rushers last offseason, the Jaguars could cash in on draft compensation. The Kansas City Chiefs traded a 2019 first and third-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive end Frank Clark (and a 2019 third-round pick), which also included a 2020 second-round pick. The San Francisco 49ers traded a second-round pick for defensive end Dee Ford. Both Ford and Clark signed huge deals with their new teams after their respective trades: Ford five years, $87.5 million and Clark five years, $105.5 million ($63.5 million guaranteed). Ngakoue is expected to rival what Clark received from Kansas City.
The price the Kansas City Chiefs paid for Clark is a good barometer for the Jaguars when they shop Ngakoue, especially since both defensive ends are the same age and Clark had the franchise tag placed on him when he was dealt. Clark had 35 sacks in his first four seasons when he was traded from Seattle. Jacksonville should start all trade offers with a 2020 first-round pick and work from there. For a team to land Ngakoue, they likely will have to part ways with a 2020 first-round pick and a future second-round pick. Possibly even a future third-round pick.
Where teams have the leverage on the Jaguars is Ngakoue doesn't want to play in Jacksonville. What the Jaguars can't do is wait until days before the season, as the Houston Texans did with Clowney last year. The Seahawks traded a 2020 third-round pick, DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo and LB Jacob Martin to the Texans for Clowney -- not exactly the premium price Houston envisioned when it placed Clowney on the trade block.
Jacksonville shouldn't worry about the price getting that low for Ngakoue, but the Jaguars can't sit around and wait...or the market will evaporate.
Concerns that could affect the price tag for Ngakoue in a trade
There isn't much to dislike regarding Ngakoue, who is one of the premier pass rushers in the game. 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 has a knack for getting to the quarterback and that's the name of the game on defense in 2020.
Ngakoue may be undersized as an edge rusher (6-2, 246 pounds) and needs the right system to thrive, but there's no denying his ability to get to the quarterback and alter the game (he has 14 forced fumbles in 63 career games). Ngakoue is subpar in tackling, having a missed tackle percentage over 19% in the last two seasons, but teams are paying for the sack artist when they trade for him. He also is improving against the run, a major weakness in Ngakoue's game when he entered the league as a third-round pick in 2016, but there is still work to go on that end.
Scouting report on Ngakoue (pros and cons)
- Sack artist
- Powerful hitter upon impact to the quarterback
- Difference-maker on defense
- Quick off the snap
- Excellent closing speed
- Wears left tackles down throughout the course of the game
- Subpar tackler
- Run defense
- Needs the right system to thrive (one that takes advantage of speed on edge)
Ngakoue bids farewell to Jacksonville, but Jaguars plan to franchise tag him
March 2: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Jaguars plan to use their franchise tag on Ngakoue. They hope that he plays for them in 2020, but are also willing to trade him "if that's what they decide or are forced to do."
Ngakoue made it clear that he does not intend to sign a long-term contract Monday morning. He issued the following statement on Twitter:
"The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long-term contract in Jacksonville. Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I'm thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere."