It's always trade season in the NFL, but never more so than in October with the trade deadline looming. As Nov. 3 rapidly approaches, teams assess where they can improve and seek out deals to strike to achieve that mission, but not all trades are created equal. Some are to the benefit of both clubs, while others are wildly lopsided, and what happened with Yannick Ngakoue most certainly falls into the category of the latter. Having only enjoyed his services for six games, the Minnesota Vikings appear to be waving the white flag on the season at 1-5, and opted to ship Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a mid- and late-round pick in the 2021 and 2022 NFL Draft, respectively.
Yes, that's the same Yannick Ngakoue the Vikings traded for in August, hoping to make him a cornerstone of their defense opposite Danielle Hunter. With the future in Minnesota now murky for Hunter, and the Vikings having decided to take a major loss in moving Ngakoue to the Ravens just six weeks after giving up premium draft capital to land him, their pass rush is effectively in shambles going forward.
The Ravens, however, just made one of the best defenses in the league that much better, and it didn't cost them high-level draft capital to make it happen. Instead, all things considered, it'll cost them a big money deal they're prepared to give him anyway -- along with picks they could not care less about as it relates to winning a Super Bowl on the back end of the 2020 season.
That's called fleecing, and it's not that the Ravens necessarily did it to the Vikings, as much as they convinced the Vikings to do it to themselves.
What a coup this is for the Ravens.
Already loaded on defense, they land another talented pass rusher in the hopes of getting over the hump named Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens were seeking yet another complementary pass rusher for Calais Campbell, who himself has four sacks through six games, and Ngakoue stands to instantly become exactly the medicine that ails them in this regard. To land him from the Vikings in exchange for a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2022 is awe-inspiring, considering there's not a third-round (and most certainly not a fifth-round) talent who can be viewed in the same lane as what a team will get from Ngakoue. The Ravens gave up two a late Day 2 and a mid-Day 3 pick, and not even in the same year, to peel away a player the Vikings are only six weeks removed from having given the Jacksonville Jaguars a second-round pick and conditional fifth-round pick in 2021 for.
In other words, based upon the current trajectory of both clubs, the Vikings wound up losing upwards of 60 slots in the coming draft by trading for and then trading away Ngakoue, while the Ravens land a pass rusher who has five sacks this season already, 37.5 over his first four years in the NFL, and should fit their scheme masterfully. This is an A+ maneuvering by the Ravens front office, who reportedly pursued Ngakoue earlier this offseason, as the rich get richer atop the AFC.
Remember I mentioned the Vikings likely lost upwards of 60 slots in the coming draft? Well, as bad as that is, it gets worse when considering they paid to do it. Ngakoue was initially under a $17.8 million franchise tag with the Jaguars but reworked his deal to a fully guaranteed $12 million to squeeze into the Vikings salary cap. They paid him for six weeks worth of work only to ditch the goal of signing him to a long-term deal the instant they fell to 1-5 on the year. The Pro Bowl pass rusher literally went from being a potential cornerstone piece back in August -- when the initial trade with the Jaguars occurred -- to being involved in what can only be described as a 2020 fire sale ahead of the trade deadline. And if they decide to also ship out Danielle Hunter following updated news of his injury, this all becomes so much worse for what was supposed to be a promising year in Minnesota.
There's not much saving grace here for the Vikings, other than the conditional fifth-round pick in 2022 could become a fourth-round pick that year if Ngakoue is named to the Pro Bowl. Still, as I noted in the Ravens master stroke above, a young, proven pass rusher at the NFL level doesn't grow on trees -- which is to say they also don't typically fall to the third or fourth/fifth round in a draft. In giving up a 2021 second-round pick, and salary, to turn around and move a player for a third-round pick in that same draft is a head scratcher of the highest order.
The Vikings took a massive L on this one, to the point both the Jaguars and the Ravens are high-fiving each other after having done business with them. The Ravens got Ngakoue as they had long hoped, and they used the Vikings as a conduit to avoid having to give up a second-round pick to the Jaguars for him.