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Yannick Ngakoue to the Browns Doesn't Make Sense for Either Side

There have been suggestions that the Cleveland Browns should pursue free agent pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Such a deal doesn't make sense for the Browns or Ngakoue.
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One of the reasons the reasons the Cleveland Browns traded for Za'Darius Smith was so they could specifically avoid making a bad bet on a fading edge rusher like Yannick Ngakoue. The notion they should now double down and sign Ngakoue as the team's fourth edge would cost them money they don't want to spend and either force them to change the complexion of their defensive line or cut young players they only recently drafted.

The going rate for aging, veteran pass rushers for depth is approximately $7 million. That's the figure Leonard Floyd just signed for with the Buffalo Bills while the Denver Broncos just signed Frank Clark a deal reportedly worth up to $7.5 million. 

The Browns are paying less for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, which is why it's been hailed as one of the better bets made in this free agency period. Okoronkwo signed a three-year, $19 million that could reach $22 million if he reaches incentives.

The Browns don't have $7 million laying around for a fourth string edge rusher. And if they were interested in adding more pass rushing depth, they would be better off targeting the likes of Justin Houston, who had a better season in 2022 at the age of 33.

The adoration for Ngakoue is entirely focused around one number. Sacks. Ngakoue has been able to rack up 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. It's tantalizing. He averages 8 sacks per season over his career. The problem is on a play to play basis, he makes virtually no impact, so even as his sacks are legitimate, Ngakoue often feels invisible. That's a criticism often lobbed at Myles Garrett despite most advanced metrics showing he's the most impactful edge rusher in the NFL.

Let's dive into some numbers courtesy of PFF, shall we?

Garrett and Smith are fantastic, With Okoronkwo, the Browns are betting on his efficiency translating over a bigger workload. He may not be as good as the other two but it's understandable why the Browns believe he's ascending because he's able to defeat blockers and generate pressure, something the Browns target in both free agency and the NFL Draft.

Contrast that against Ngakoue's last three seasons.

The sacks look great, but everything else looks pitiful compared to what the Browns already have at their disposal. Ngakoue doesn't meet the criteria for what the Browns want in that position.

Short of an injury or fatigue, the only way to get Ngakoue on the field is for the Browns to play Smith and Garrett inside, allowing Ngakoue and Ogbonnia on the edges. The Browns should line up Garrett over centers and guards more often, but he shouldn't live there. Ngakoue has a whopping eight reps lined up anywhere other than outside the tackle.

That leads into another problem with Ngakoue. Either the Browns are going to carry six defensive ends and just four defensive tackles or they are going to cut bait on Alex Wright since Isaiah McGuire has been a Brown for barely a month. There is a world where the Browns could keep six defensive ends, but doing it for Ngakoue would mean that Wright and McGuire would be utilized almost exclusively inside. While possible, it's unlikely.

Unless the Browns have decided that Wright can't play dead, it would be counterproductive to bail on him already for a Ngakoue rental. They'd at least see what he can do in training camp, but he's already drawn praise from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. One of the reasons the Browns got Wright as well as Isaiah McGuire is their size and versatility. They both have strength at the point of attack to potentially disrupt the line of scrimmage or collapse the pocket. The pair also have length to help combat teams trying to reach them.

If those two can do nothing else but stop the run, they could use them to spell their premium rushers and allow them to put a heavier focus on getting to the quarterback. Ngakoue is not only limited in terms of where he can play, but he is useless against the run. In effect, Ngakoue would be filling a role similar to Marquise Goodwin is for the wide receivers. A specific role that exploits particular situations. The notable difference is Goodwin is basically getting the league minimum while Ngakoue would get at least five times as much.

Ngakoue won't get the reps to make the necessary impact to warrant the contract he's going to get. Nothing he can provide is going to be more valuable than having Wright and McGuire on rookie deals even if one or both of they don't evolve into contributors. Whatever their chances are to develop, they also balance out the salary cap.

This is all aside from the fact Ngakoue likely has no more interest in this arrangement than the Browns. The only incentive for Ngakoue to go from a starter to fourth on the depth chart is money and the Browns front office has no interest in giving it to him. Rather than worrying about cramming another edge rusher into an already fully-formed position group, the Browns should be focused on acquiring a starting caliber three-tech defensive tackle. They currently have three proven edge rushers and just one proven defensive tackle. Addressing that would be a far better use of their resources.