Will Sunday Be Yannick Ngakoue’s Last Game in a Jacksonville Jaguars Uniform?
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With the Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 season drawing to a close with the Indianapolis Colts visiting to play at TIAA Bank Field this Sunday, the Jaguars are growing closer and closer to making some monumental decisions.
One of these franchise-altering decisions will be how the Jaguars tackle the future of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, a fourth-year player who is only under contract for one more game. If nothing changes, then the Colts game could be Ngakoue's final time in a Jaguars uniform. Considering the damage Ngakoue has done to the Colts (6.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles in seven career games vs. Colts), this would be a fitting end.
"I would love to see him back, but you know, business is business," Jaguars rookie defensive end Josh Allen said this week when JaguarMaven asked if he would like to see Ngakoue return in 2020 and beyond.
"He has to take care of his family first and I wish him nothing but the best and hopefully, his career takes off again and again and again and again."
Ngakoue has been angling for a new contract since before the 2019 season began. He entered into contract negotiations with the team in the summer, but those quickly broke down and led to a brief training camp holdout until Ngakoue returned to the team to play on the final year of his rookie contract.
The team had an interest in keeping Ngakoue, but the question is how much of a financial commitment they would be willing to make to the former third-round pick. But according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, former executive vice president Tom Coughlin played a role in the lack of an extension. Coughlin was fired by the Jaguars last week.
"Just before training camp last summer, Coughlin declared that the Jags had made their final and best offer to pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. The problem? It was late July, and negotiations were still in the early stages, having only started earlier that month," Breer reported. "And the comments sufficiently angered Ngakoue, who was planning on reporting to training camp, to the point where he launched a training camp holdout instead. And this was a player that the team wanted to sign."
Through 62 career games in Jacksonville, Ngakoue has become one of the bright spots of the franchise and one of the better value draft picks in the team's 25-year history. He is already second in career sacks (37.5) in franchise history.
One person who has been with Ngakoue every step of the way since the Jaguars drafted him out of the University of Maryland is defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Wash was one of the biggest advocates for drafting Ngakoue in 2016, and their relationship has remained solid throughout the last four years.
"You know I think for Yannick, obviously, I want what is best for him," Wash said when asked about Ngakoue's future Thursday. "The organization will decide if he is going to be able to come back or not. But I think he has put some really good stuff on tape. We challenged him early in the year, in the offseason when he was here, about playing the run. I think he has improved his stats statistically against the run. He is rushing the passer well.
"He has a bright future wherever it may be. But for the organizational sake, I hope he is a Jaguar for a long time."
Allen has also grown close to Ngakoue in his first season in Jacksonville. The two have turned into a deadly duo, combing for 18 sacks and five forced fumbles (eight sacks, three forced fumbles belong to Ngakoue), and have shown flashes of the damage they could havoc on offenses if the duo remains together.
But like Wash, Allen knows it is a business and he simply wants best for Ngakoue.
"Hopefully, I will see him do really big things in the future because I know he is and I know he will," Allen said. "But it is not about me.
"I feel like I would be selfish if I wanted him to stay. And I wish him nothing but the best, and him, and Calais, and Taven and all those other guys. But hopefully, I get to play with him some more."
Where Ngakoue plays next season and beyond that will be decided in the near future. For now, the only thing left that is a guarantee is this Sunday.