Jadeveon Clowney has been this offseason's most anticlimactic pass rusher thanks to his long stint on the open market, but Yannick Ngakoue might rival him in unfinished business. The Jacksonville Jaguars standout, who received the team's franchise tag back in March, has yet to sign the one-year deal and has a totally uncertain future with the 2020 NFL season fast approaching.
Here's absolutely everything you need to know about the defensive end, who's been floated in trade rumors for months.
Do the Jaguars want to trade Ngakoue?
No, and why would they? It's not often a third-round pick racks up 37.5 sacks in his first four seasons, and if said third-rounder is still just 25 with a Pro Bowl nod already under his belt, you typically want to keep that kind of talent in-house. The Jags have said as much both publicly and behind closed doors, with even team owner Shad Khan reportedly insisting on Ngakoue sticking around.
That said, it ultimately doesn't really matter what the Jaguars want. The New York Jets didn't want to trade Jamal Adams in July. The Jaguars (!) didn't want to trade Jalen Ramsey in 2019. The right circumstances can cancel just about any commitment by a team to a player, and we have ourselves circumstances ...
Does Ngakoue want to be traded?
If you've read any NFL headlines over the last few months, then you should know the answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" Since receiving (but not signing) the Jags' franchise tag, Ngakoue has repeatedly demanded a trade via social media, argued with co-owner Tony Khan over Twitter, explicitly stated he won't sign a long-term contract in Jacksonville and held out of training camp with no apparent intent on reporting for the season. This man wants no parts of the Jaguars in 2020 or beyond.
Are the Jaguars listening to offers?
Yes. (Which means, like the Ramsey situation and like the Jets with Adams, they're willing to give up on what they want for the right price.) General manager Dave Caldwell tried downplaying the ordeal early this offseason by claiming the team had received zero offers for Ngakoue, but reports have since indicated Jacksonville's talked with multiple clubs. Caldwell himself has admitted as much, saying this week that "we're having contact" with Ngakoue and his agent about possible resolutions.
What could the Jaguars get for Ngakoue?
This is the million-dollar question. ESPN reported in April that Jacksonville was seeking a first-round pick "and then some" for Ngakoue. That wouldn't necessarily be on par with the hauls for similarly aged Pro Bowl defenders like Adams and Ramsey, who each went for two first-rounders and additional picks, but it's still a steep price considering Ngakoue can no longer be signed to a long-term deal until after the 2020 season and would count more than $20 million on a theoretical 2021 franchise tag.
Asked Friday what it would take for Jacksonville to move Ngakoue, one league source told CBS Sports that simply one first-rounder might get the job done at this point. The question is whether any team would even offer that, considering they'd only be getting Ngakoue for 2020 before the post-pandemic salary cap kicks in. Realistically, Jacksonville could probably expect to land as much as a second-rounder and a player, or something like a second- and third-rounder -- somewhat comparable to what the Seattle Seahawks paid to land Clowney, who was 26 at the time, in 2019.
Will the Jaguars actually pull the trigger?
It seems more likely than not. Ngakoue will be sacrificing money if he actually sits out the 2020 season, and the Jags don't want to make a habit of selling off any disgruntled player, but this feels too far gone. Coach Doug Marrone, in saying he just wants everyone to get what they want, has basically signed off on a deal. The Athletic's Michael Lombardi reports that "the whole NFL knows (Caldwell) is in the process of his moving his best player." The ultimate compensation may be tough to swallow, but Ngakoue isn't going to be a Jaguar beyond 2020 anyway. That's an indictment on a poorly run franchise, more than anything. Might as well cash out now.
Where could Ngakoue land?
This makes all the sense in the world. Cleveland has been sniffing around all kinds of big-name pass rushers, from Clowney to Everson Griffen, who's since signed with Dallas, and reportedly checked in on Ngakoue earlier this offseason. They lead the NFL in projected 2020 cap space. Pairing Ngakoue with Myles Garrett would instantly give them one of the AFC's top pass rushes. And they're stocked up on 2021 draft picks, owning 10 before the compensatory additions.
NFL Network says the Raiders are keeping an eye on the Ngakoue talks, and Vegas has been linked to the DE since March -- rightfully so, considering they're in more dire need of help than Cleveland. Ngakoue would instantly be the Raiders' top edge presence and also take some pressure off former first-rounder Clelin Ferrell. Cap space is the biggest issue here, as Las Vegas has under $4 million available before final cuts, so some kind of drastic maneuvering would be in order.
New England Patriots
The Pats have a tendency to make nobodies into somebodies up front, and Ngakoue isn't necessarily a straightforward fit in their hybrid scheme, but they'd make it work for a DE of his caliber. With more cap space than everyone but the Browns, they'd have more than enough dough to bet on him, too. If they're serious about playing a power-run offense and relying mostly on their defense, why not add a premiere presence to the trenches?
New York Jets
You'd think GM Joe Douglas would want to preserve every one of his precious picks for the inevitable 2021-22 overhaul now that he's just dealt away a young star in Adams. The Jets have also been shy about floating big money on the edge despite a longtime need at the position. Here's the deal, though: Douglas is all about building from the trenches on out, and Ngakoue helps with that big-time. Imagine if he's essentially able to flip Adams for Ngakoue and have picks left over.
This is purely based on general manager Howie Roseman's tendencies. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is plenty happy with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett atop the DE rotation, and the Eagles are loaded with neither picks nor cap space beyond 2020. But they've struggled to hit on pass rushing depth in the draft, and Roseman a.) puts immense value on the D-line; and b.) would never balk at the chance to add an ascending talent entering his second contract.
With Clowney apparently still out of their price range, it's somewhat difficult to see them absorbing Ngakoue's $17 million cap hit for 2020, although they may have reason to believe his long-term upside is a better bet. There's no denying they're after big-time pass rushing help, though. Before Griffen signed with the Cowboys, Seattle was reportedly courting his services and has also explored longtime Packers starter Clay Matthews. After coughing up so much for Jamal Adams, though, how much can they offer?