Why Bears Can Be Expected to Treat Yannick Ngakoue as Last Resort

Analysis: Numbers say Yannick Ngakoue struggled last year while costing the Bears $10.5 million so expect younger players to get every chance to prove themselves.
Yannick Ngakoue gave the Bears very little in the pass rush last year  before a season-ending injury so expect to they'll look as long as possible at younger players before thinking of bringing him back.
Yannick Ngakoue gave the Bears very little in the pass rush last year before a season-ending injury so expect to they'll look as long as possible at younger players before thinking of bringing him back. / Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

 It's very telling when a debate about the best free agents still available after OTAs and minicamps fails to mention Yannick Ngakoue.

A Sports Illustrated panel last week discussed this topic and not a single one produced Ngakuoe's name, even though he has had only one season with less than eight sacks.

The free agent edge rusher suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 13, not a career-threatening torn ACL or an Achilles. And at age 29 he is far from a point where age enters into why teams are ignoring him.

Yet, the Bears haven't signed Ngakoue back and there are plenty of guessers floating about saying they might eventually give in and sign him as a complement to Montez Sweat.

After all, they didn't sign him last year until Aug. 3, a week after training camp began.

With camp starting sooner this year due to the Hall of Fame Game, it would make sense to wait until they see their own potential young pass rushers and then decide to bring him in well in advance of when other teams would.

It Needs to Come from Somewhere

They do need more pressure on the quarterback from someone besides Montez Sweat in order to avoid wearing him out or getting him injured. However, after last year it's entirely possible the Bears have no interest in Ngakoue.

Ngakoue's production last year was so poor before the injury that simply looking to improve from within might offer the Bears a better option.

The final numbers alone can't accurately depict this, but they do a pretty decent job. His four sacks came in 12-plus games, which was a career-low but he'd made 9 1/2 sacks on only 2 1/2 more games in the previous season (2022) with the Colts.

Former Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache once said sacks are overrated and took a beating for this from fans and media, but in a sense he was right. Sure, everyone likes sacks but in this Matt Eberflus scheme good, consistent pressure on the quarterback is valuable, as well. The key is the consistency.




The Bears already might have someone on the roster who already showed they can do this. He was just a step away from finishing last year with sacks numerous times and that's starting right end DeMarcus Walker.

Pro Football Focus' film study gave Walker the second-best win rate among edge rushers on last year's team, behind only Montez Sweat's 14.5%. Walker was at a 10.8% win rate last year and had the same number of sacks as Ngakoue. He also led them in total pressures, according to PFF, at 47.

Ngakoue's win rate was only 4.8% last year. This was a poor rate, and it says something about how bad the Bears' edge rush pressure really was outside of their starters when it was still a better rate than what they got from backup edges Rasheem Green (3.8%) and Dominique Robinson (1.4%). Journeyman edge Khalid Kareem had a 5.3% win rate, which was even better than Ngakoue had.

If you need more tangible evidence than win rates, Sportradar tracked Ngakoue at 11 pressures, or less than half of his previous low effort since the 2017 season.

Defensive Tackle Enters Into This As Well

The other factor entering into this decision to be made is the Bears defensive tackle situation. They didn't bring in a veteran 3-technique after Justin Jones left in free agency because they saw Gervon Dexter's progrees last year. He had the defensive line's second-highest PFF win rate at 11.9%, behind only Sweat. He was just a rookie then.

The Bears expect improvement from Dexter and also from second-year tackle Zacch Pickens, and this will lead to more pressure on the interior, which makes the pressure off the other edge less essential.

All of this said, they have already brought in one extra edge in Jake Martin, who has 18 career sacks. Martin fits as part of the rotation but also as a player who impressed Sweat during minicamp. Sweat said he saw Martin "... really making some noise out there. So, I am pretty excited on what I'm seeing."

Last year Martin didn't get a lot of playing time with the Colts, but with 107 plays as a pass rusher he had a 17.1% win rate. This was higher than Sweat's rate was with the Bears last year.

The Bears saw something in him and before they give up on contributions from some of the younger players like rookie Austin Booker, or even Robinson, or on a veteran signee like Martin, they owe it to those players to take a good look before burning up cap space for a player who, quite frankly, failed last year and took $10.5 million from them when he did it.

If they can't expect better pressure from many of these other players, then they might be better off simply signing any of several other unsigned veteran free agents who are available and not Ngakoue.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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Gene Chamberlain


BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Chicago Bears full time as a beat writer since 1994 and prior to this on a part-time basis for 10 years. He covered the Bears as a beat writer for Suburban Chicago Newspapers, the Daily Southtown, Copley News Service and has been a contributor for the Daily Herald, the Associated Press, Bear Report, CBS Sports.com and The Sporting News. He also has worked a prep sports writer for Tribune Newspapers and Sun-Times newspapers.