Yannick Ngakoue a Theme-Changer for Eagles

John McMullen

There are themes to every NFL offseason just like there are variables defining every equation.

For the Eagles, Howie Roseman has been pretty upfront that the philosophy has shifted a bit from the 2017-through-2019 championship window and the organization needs an influx of younger bodies with speed.

Free agents, for the most part, were going to be players fresh off their rookie deals while draft picks were paramount after two consecutive years of having just five.

Some of the reasons Byron Jones was target No. 1 at the cornerback position were his age when compared to Darius Slay plus his status as a free agent, meaning money - albeit too much of it - was the only projected cost from Philadelphia’s perspective.

When Miami outbid the Eagles for Jones, however, it was on to Plan B, which may have been the post-30 Chris Harris, who was also a free agent and ultimately lured out to Los Angeles by the Chargers when the disciplined Roseman thought the money got a little out of whack for the player.

Plan C was Slay, not because of his talent as the most proven option in the bunch but because he was under contract, meaning Roseman had to send two draft picks to Detroit to get Slay couple with a big-money extension.

Man plans and the football gods laugh.

Themes are preferences, not hard and fast rules as the variables change.

Enter Jacksonville Jaguars edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, the rare, young ascending pass rusher who may not only be available but has tried to take a Stefon Diggs-like approach on social media to ensure his exit from Florida.

The less-than-subtle hints have often had a Philadelphia tint to them and are heating up again.

The problems start with Ngakoue being under the franchise tag with the Jaguars and the realization that Jacksonville isn’t about to listen to any discounts, so any potential package starts with a first-round pick and the understanding you are going to fork over top-of-the-line money as the most valuable position in the NFL outside quarterback.

If you believe Roseman’s press briefings are under oath and that there is no bend in the plan, surely the Eagles can’t part ways with the No. 21 overall pick, right?

The goal of draft picks is to develop him into contributors like Ngakoue and the odds that anyone Philadelphia is able to select can duplicate Ngakoue’s production at a premium position - 37.5 sacks in four seasons and at least eight in each campaign - is slim to none and ‘Slim’ is packed waiting for his Uber.

Meanwhile, Ngakoue was so young when he entered the league as a third-round pick out of Maryland in 2016 that he just turned 25 on March 31.

The cliche in the modern NFL is you either get the quarterback or get to the quarterback and getting one of the top edge rushers in the game at 25 is what just about every team in the NFL is searching for.

As for the hand-wringing surrounding Derrick Barnett and how this might affect the Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick, I’m transported back to the 2007 NFL Draft when discussing things with a Minnesota decision-maker at the time.

Remember that was a different time when running backs were still valued and there were rumblings that Adrian Peterson, the greatest combination of power and speed out of the backfield since Jim Brown himself, would fall to the Vikings at No. 7 overall.

Minnesota also had Chester Taylor, one of those good players people tend to forget as time passes who was one year off a 1,200-yard season.

So I asked the question: “What about Chester Taylor?”

The response gotten was as classic as it gets: “F@#$ Chester Taylor.”

By no means was that a criticism of Taylor as a player, it was just some colorful language to describe what Peterson was as a playmaker.

Ngakoue isn’t earmarked for Canton just yet but then again Barnett has also never put together anything comparable to what Taylor did, so a similar sentiment exists.

The goal is to get better, no matter any theme or perceived ruled to roster building.

In the NFL, available 25-year-old proven pass rushers are equivalent to seeing a unicorn grazing at the side of the road.

Roseman’s foundation as a GM is building up front on both sides of the ball so he should pull over and take notice.

John McMullen covers the Eagles for SI.com. You can listen to John every day at 4 ET on ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey and reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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