Yannick Ngakoue could provide a much-needed boost to the Jaguars pass rush

• The Jaguars need to round out their pass rush rotation

• Why not give a familar face a call?

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made it a priority to try and address the team’s pass rush this offseason. However, even with the additions of Arik Armstead and Trevis Gipson, the Jags still seem to be short of depth in that position.

Josh Allen had a banner 2023 campaign at outside linebacker, while Travon Walker improved significantly in year two. That said, there are still some solid pass rushers on the market, including one familiar face that the Jags may want to consider bringing back.

Who do the Jaguars currently have at the defensive end position?

There’s a lot of potential for the Jags on the defensive line heading into 2024, but not a lot of experience. Maason Smith, Jordan Jefferson, and Mason Cole were taken in the most recent draft. All of them have upside, but they probably won't contribute right out of the gate.

Outside of Allen and Walker, the next best option for the Jags’ pass rush when considering NFL experience and productivity is probably Roy Robertson-Harris. He’s coming off his best season — from a sack standpoint at 3.5 — registering three or more in each of his three seasons in Duval County. The fact that 3.5 has been his best total for sacks in seven seasons suggests we’re unlikely to get more productivity from him.

The Jags let Dawuane Smoot walk in the offseason, and with it, a relatively consistent pass rusher. In seven seasons with the Jags, he registered 23.5 sacks. 22.5 of them came from 2019-2022.

Yannick Ngakoue’s resume in Jacksonville

Yannick Ngakoue
Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

While his time in Duval County ended unceremoniously, Yannick Ngakoue is a free agent that Trent Baalke may want to consider signing.

In his four seasons in Jacksonville, the Washington DC native had eight sacks or more every year. In their 2017 run to the AFC Championship Game, he had a career-high 12 sacks, including six forced fumbles in the regular season.

Ngakoue led the NFL in forced fumbles in 2017 while making the Pro Bowl for the first and only time in his pro career. He helped put the sack in Sacksonville during the 2017 campaign.

How did Ngakoue leave the Jaguars?

As much as Ngakoue contributed on the field, his relationship with the Jaguars front office did not end on good terms. In case you don’t remember, he got into a heated argument with team executive Tony Khan.

It began in the spring of 2020, just over a month after the club had placed the franchise tag on Ngakoue. He's taken down his posts in the exchange but Khan's remain online. The conversation starts with Ngakoue telling Khan to stop hiding. Here's the response.

In a since-deleted tweet, Ngakoue says that Khan has not answered calls from his representative and goes on to call him a "spoiled bra", as in brat.

Ngakoue then straight up ask Khan to trade him but Khan says that he isn't doing any favors based on how he's dealing with the situation.

On August 21, the Jags finally granted Ngakoue his wish, trading him to the Minnesota Vikings for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder.

What has Ngakoue done since being traded from Jacksonville?

Since departing from Duval County, Ngakoue has been bounced around the league, playing for five different teams: the Vikings, Ravens, Raiders, Colts, and Bears. Despite struggling to find a permanent home, his numbers suggest he’s still got more to give.

In two of the previous three regular seasons, he’s registered over nine quarterback sacks and over 15 solo tackles. In total, he has 69 career sacks and is still shy of 30 (29).

Yannick Ngakoue’s market value in 2024

Ngakoue had a disappointing 2023 season in Chicago, registering a mere four sacks, the fewest of his NFL career when playing in at least 10 games. It’s safe to say the Bears didn’t get their money’s worth on him, having invested $10 million for one season. That means the Jags could get him at a bargain, and the club has the cash to burn. 

Per the Roster Management System, the Jaguars have the third-highest salary cap space available ($35.26 million) in the league right now.

Why Yannick Ngakoue fits the Jaguars defense

If Ngakoue is to return to Jacksonville, there must be some healing between the owners and him. Whether that is just meeting halfway or letting bygones be bygones, both sides must find a way to put personal differences aside.

Working in Ngakoue's favor is that other than the owners, the Jags management team and coaching staff are completely different from the last time he dawned the teal colours. Ngakoue could add a lot to the Jags' defence.

New defensive coordinator Ryan Neilsen has preached the importance of attacking blocks, tackling, ball disruptions, and takeaways. Ngakoue possesses those skills, which could help this team. For as poor a run-stopper as Ngakoue has been, he’s been relatively consistent in the pass rush. He can put opposing quarterbacks under duress and cause turnovers.

His veteran presence and skillset could be of great value to the Jags in a division with some outstanding youngsters in C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson, along with a revamped offense in Tennessee.

Ngakoue hasn’t been linked to Jacksonville this offseason, but you’d think he still wants to play and rebuild his stock. You’d also think the Jags would want to add depth pieces to its D-line. Can both sides reconcile? That may be the biggest question because from where I sit this appears like a win/win for all parties.

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