If the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t able to get a deal done with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, where will the pass rusher sign this offseason?
Ngakoue, who has gathered 37.5 sacks in the last four seasons while in Jacksonville, is amongst the top prized potential free agents of the offseason, according to NFL Trade Rumors’ list of the top 100 potential players on the open market.
Ngakoue, the Jaguars third-round pick in 2016, is ranked seventh overall and there should be no shortage of teams who would love to bring in a 24-year-old pass rusher with speed to burn as part of their late Christmas presents come March.
The New Orleans Saints, according to a report, are a team that could be interested in signing him.
“The Saints pass rush was sleep at the wheel in the playoffs against Kirk Cousins. They sacked the Vikings quarterback just twice on his 33 dropbacks and landed only five hits, failing to pressure him with any consistency,” writes John Sigler of saintswire.com.
“The Vikings went 10-for-18 on third downs, emblematic of New Orleans’ problems in getting after the passer late in the season.”
Ngakoue’s speed and agility have been his calling card since his rookie season. While he only collected eight sacks this past season, he showed an intensity while pressuring the quarterback that allowed him to have one of his best seasons in a Jaguars uniform.
His speed as a pass rush is more dominant than he is against the run, which did improve this past season. He could be just what the Saints need.
“Enter Ngakoue, the Jacksonville Jaguars sack artist who Tom Coughlin alienated before he was fired,” Sigler adds.
“Ngakoue finished the 2019 season with 8.0 sacks and 15 hits, tying the career-low set in his 2016 rookie year. For context, those numbers would rank second-best in New Orleans behind Cameron Jordan, who led the way in sacks (15.5) and hits (25).”
Signing Ngakoue to a Saints contract, like the Jaguars, could be a tricky situation. According to Spotrac.com, New Orleans has $4.86 million in available cap space right now. The Jaguars, who could also use the franchise tag to secure their star’s services for the 2020 season, is at $1.254 million in available cap money to spend before the front office makes moves to release high-priced veterans to be able to spend money in free agency.
The franchise tag would guarantee Ngakoue would get $17.95 million for the upcoming season while the front office works on signing him to a long-term deal, the one that was never offered this past offseason.
“The downside (for the Saints) is that Ngakoue will be in for a big payday. Big in the sense of $17 million or so per year,” Sigler writes. “There are few players with as many hides on the wall as him at his age (he’ll turn 25 in March), so if he plays his cards right, he can cash in repeatedly during the prime of his career. Maybe the Saints can bring him in on a three-year deal, which would position him for another huge free agent contract before he turns 28.”
Ngakoue was part of the 2016 NFL Draft class that included cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack. Last offseason, Jack was signed to a four-year, $57 million contract extension that includes $33 million in guaranteed money. Ramsey had his fifth-year option picked up on the afternoon of the first day of the NFL Draft last April. He would have made nearly $14 million in 2020.
Ramsey and the front office had disagreements that boiled over and forced the franchise to send him to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks prior to the NFL Trade Deadline this past season.