5 Observations on the Yannick Ngakoue Trade and What it Means for the Jaguars

With Yannick Ngakoue now finally on his way out of Jacksonville, what takeaways can we have from the team's haul in return for his talents?
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After months of speculation, public tirades and much, much more, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Yannick Ngakoue are finally on different paths with the Jaguars reportedly agreeing to trade the fifth-year defensive end to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.

We have discussed the merits of an Ngakoue trade throughout the offseason, but now we actually have tangible compensation and decisions to reflect on. So, what does the trade mean for Ngakoue and the Jaguars moving forward?

Ngakoue taking less money from Vikings speaks volumes

The most newsworthy aspect of this trade is the fact that Yannick Ngakoue reportedly is actually taking less money to play for the Vikings in 2020 than he would have to play for the Jaguars. The Jaguars originally placed a franchise tag tender on Ngakoue worth around $17.7 million, which would have made him the highest-paid player on the team in the event he ever signed it (which was never happening). 

Instead, Ngakoue reportedly is agreeing to a re-worked deal that will pay him several million dollars less, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Simply put, Ngakoue taking potentially four million dollars less to play for a team that isn't Jacksonville shows just how much he no longer wanted to be a Jaguar. It is an unparalleled move from a player to display his frustrations with a franchise, and it shows just how unlikely Ngakoue was to ever suit up for the Jaguars again.

By not agreeing to Jacksonville's contract offer last summer and then taking a pay cut with the Vikings now, the defensive end lost out on potentially upwards of $20 million over 2019 and 2020, but he also got a somewhat quicker exit out of Jacksonville than he would have otherwise.

Jacksonville needs K'Lavon Chaisson to be an impact player fast

It was always unlikely that Ngakoue was going to play for the Jaguars in 2020, but up until Sunday, there was at least somewhat of a possibility existing. Now, with that possibility officially dead, it's clear who the Jags need to step up in Ngakoue's place: first-round rookie defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson.

Jacksonville selected Chaisson with the No. 20 overall pick in April's NFL Draft after he recorded 60 tackles and 6.5 sacks during his final year at LSU, with over half of those sacks coming in LSU's biggest games down the stretch. He won't be asked to be the No. 1 edge rusher, of course, with that responsibility going to Josh Allen, but he should be expected to play a role similar to the one Allen played last season. The dropoff from Ngakoue to Chaisson should be a significant one early on considering Ngakoue is an established veteran and Chaisson still has to prove he can produce at the NFL level. If Chaisson can quickly become an impact player, it would mean the Jaguars' pass-rush maybe doesn't take as much of a step back as it some project. But we won't know that until the games begin.

The argument for and against the value the Jaguars received 

Frankly, there is no real argument to make that a second-round pick is equal the value of Ngakoue's talent-level. The Jaguars did turn a 2016 third-round pick into a future second and conditional fifth-rounder, but losing a player the caliber of Ngakoue for just a second-round pick and a 2022 conditional pick isn't exactly a winning proposition.

Most good teams do not give away good players, especially at the rate the Jaguars do. And considering the talk all offseason is the Jaguars were unwilling to part with Ngakoue for less than a premium pick, a second-round pick can look somewhat meager. A second-round pick is still a valuable asset, but so is a 25-year-old pass rusher who has 37.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles in four seasons.

With that said, this was likely the best offer the Jaguars were going to get at this point. If a team was going to give up a first-round pick for Ngakoue, they likely would have done so before the July 15 deadline to negotiate a long-term deal. So this was almost certainly the best offer the Jaguars were going to get in the event they were going to trade him now, but it still isn't good value for Ngakoue's talents. 

The Jaguars could have always sat on Ngakoue's rights in the event he decided not to play in 2020, opting not to trade him in hopes of re-doing this situation all over again next offseason with a better end result. Instead, the Jaguars got cap relief and draft picks now. They got short-term relief and compensation, but it wouldn't be hard to imagine a second-round pick for Ngakoue looking like a steal in a few years. 

Jaguars geared up for 2021 and beyond, but who will make the decisions?

To say the Jaguars don't have a good opportunity in front of them to rebuild would be disingenuous. They now have 10 draft picks in 2021, with four of those picks coming in the first two rounds and eight of the picks taking place in the first five rounds. Add in the fact that the Jaguars had 12 draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft class, including two first-round picks, and the Jaguars have a lot of draft picks to build a young core around. It also gives the Jaguars a fair amount of ammo in the event they need or want to move up for a quarterback in 2021.

Jacksonville also has an abundance of cap space to move forward with, and frankly no real place to put it right now. It remains to be seen what the NFL's parameters on the cap are after 2020, but as of today the Jaguars have close to $31 million in available cap with Ngakoue off of the books, according to Spotrac. The Jaguars also have the second-most available cap space for 2021, according to Spotrac, at $58,690,472. This gives them room to be active in free agency, much like they were from 2015-17.

With that in mind, who will be making these key decisions for the Jaguars? Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone have one winning season each in their time with the team, and both have been given win-now mandates from owner Shad Khan, though that mandate came before COVID-19 turned the sports world upside down. Either way, the Jaguars are set up well for the future ... it just remains to be seen who is actually going to be guiding that future.

2017 defense has been gone for some time, but this was the final blow

The 2017 defense that was the best in the NFL at getting to the quarterback and creating explosive plays on defense has been gone from Jacksonville for some time. The unit helped push the Jaguars to a 10-6 record and an AFC Championship appearance, but the last two years have seen every major member of the defense leave except for Myles Jack and Abry Jones.

  • Yannick Ngakoue: traded to the Vikings.
  • Jalen Ramsey: traded to the Rams.
  • Calais Campbell: traded to the Ravens.
  • A.J. Bouye: traded to the Broncos.
  • Dante Fowler: traded to the Rams.
  • Malik Jackson: released.
  • Tashaun Gipson: released.
  • Barry Church: released.
  • Aaron Colvin: contract expired.
  • Telvin Smith: retired.
  • Paul Posluszny: retired.

Jacksonville has young faces to build their defense around moving forward, but the "Sacksonville" defense the Jaguars once had is gone. It has been gone for quite a while, in fact, but the trading of Ngakoue was the final domino to fall.