Would This Hypothetical Yannick Ngakoue Trade Make Sense for the Jaguars?
Ever since Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue made it clear earlier this offseason that he wanted to leave the Jacksonville Jaguars as soon as possible, trade scenarios have flown at a flurry.
Could the Philadelphia Eagles or Seattle Seahawks strike a deal for the coveted and talented edge rusher? Would Jacksonville take a middling deal or instead hope to gain a first-round pick and stay firm in their demands?
But months after Ngakoue stated he did not want to play in Jacksonville in 2020, not much has changed. Ngakoue is still a Jaguar as of today and, frankly, it doesn't appear as if any trade has even come close to materializing.
With no trade for Ngakoue in the works before the franchise tag deadline, the Jaguars opted to place the one-year franchise tag tender on Ngakoue in hopes of working out a long-term deal with him before the July 15 deadline, even if Ngakoue wasn't interested in doing so. The Jaguars were never going to just let Ngakoue walk in free agency and get nothing in return, so Ngakoue's only real option to leave Jacksonville is via a trade. Thus far, nothing has pointed to a trade being on the horizon.
"Truth be told, we exercised the franchise tender. We weren’t able to get a trade. Actually, weren’t even really able to get an offer," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said following the first round of the NFL Draft in April.
"So, I think his options are very limited at this point in time. We’ll welcome him back with open arms when he’s ready to come back and we look forward to it. Yann, for the people on this call and who have been around him realize he is a tremendous player, tremendous person, has always been first-class in everything he’s done here in the locker room and through his time here, the first four years of his contract. Obviously, he feels things have not gone the way he wanted and, in some aspects, he may have a point. But we put our best foot forward not once, but twice. I hope he sees the light that Jacksonville is a good spot and it could, at the end of the day, be his only option.”
But, are there still hypothetical trades today that are flown around as the clock ticks on Ngakoue, who is one of five players who have been franchise tagged and hasn't signed the tender yet. One such hypothetical is an intriguing scenario from Field Yates of ESPN, in which he suggests the Jaguars should attempt to unload Ngakoue on the Cleveland Browns for TE David Njoku and a 2021 second-round pick.
While gaining an unproductive tight end who has battled injuries and a future second-round pick in exchange for one of the NFL's best young pass-rushers isn't exactly a fair deal on the surface, there are enough variables to make it a logical move.
"My sense is that Jaguars fans would balk at such a move, as they seek a far more lucrative return for the 25-year-old pass-rusher, but let's start by examining why making a trade for Ngakoue is difficult. He's playing under the franchise tag, meaning the team inheriting Ngakoue is committing twice to him: once in trade compensation and then again financially, the latter likely to be more significant than the former ($20 million annually is a logical starting point)," Yates wrote.
"Under this scenario, Jacksonville acquires an athletic middle-of-the-field target who has the ability to have a Jordan Reed-like impact in new coordinator Jay Gruden's offense, which currently features Tyler Eifert (on a two-year deal that has a team option after this season) and 2019 draft pick Josh Oliver as the primary tight end targets. Njoku is under contract through 2021 for a shade under $8 million total. That's an excellent value if he realizes the immense potential he flashed before the 2017 NFL draft."
In a lot of ways, Fields is correct when it comes to the difficulty of trading for Ngakoue. Any team that does so will be making a massive investment in both draft capital and future cap space, which will likely mean most teams won't be willing to engage in any trade talks. While Ngakoue has been one of the NFL's most productive pass-rushers since he entered the league in 2016, he does only have one season with double-digit sacks so it is unlikely teams view him as a Khalil Mack-type talent.
Still, Ngakoue is only 25 and has never recorded fewer than eight sacks in any season. Add in the fact that he has improved as a run defender in the past year, as well as his work ethic and on-field leadership, and Ngakoue holds a lot of value. If the asking price is a second-round pick, it doesn't make much sense for a team like the Browns to not be interested.
Nggakoue, the team's third-round selection in 2016, has 37.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 42 tackles for loss, and 85 quarterback hits in 63 career games. He recorded eight sacks, two forced fumbles, 13 tackles for loss, and 15 quarterback hits in 2019. These are numbers any team would like to have on their team, at the right price.
On the other hand, it isn't clear why Njoku should be thrown into the mix instead of a player like Greedy Williams. Jacksonville's tight end room has question marks due to the injury histories of Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver and James O'Shaughnessy, but Njoku isn't exactly an immediate upgrade.
Last season, Njoku missed 12 games in large part due to a wrist injury. In addition, his three seasons of experience since being made a first-round pick in 2017 has resulted in just 93 receptions for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns. He isn't a lock to be a viable option at the tight end position, and there is plenty of reason to believe the Jaguars could just get similar production out of Eifert and Oliver.
Do you think this trade makes sense? Let us know why or why not in the comments below!