Analysis: Has Time Come for Seahawks to Pursue Trade for Yannick Ngakoue?
Now closing in on a month since the start of free agency, the Seahawks haven't been able to make any leeway on their top offseason priority of trying to re-sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
As indicated by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network during an interview on Sports Radio KJR, the Seahawks' patience with Clowney may finally be running out.
Many of Seattle's decisions up to this point have been built around retaining Clowney, as the team waited for a decision from him while other top-tier pass rushers such as Robert Quinn and Dante Fowler Jr. signed elsewhere. In the meantime, general manager John Schneider signed Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa to one-year deals in depth-driven moves.
But with the draft now less than three weeks away, the Seahawks haven't been willing to increase their offer to Clowney, even after he reportedly lowered his demands to $17-18 million per year. Cap space has tightened up, leaving Schneider less wiggle room than he had before free agency started last month.
If indeed the Seahawks chances of bringing back Clowney are now "slim to none," Schneider needs to be proactive looking at other options.
Given the dearth of talent left on the market and Seattle's lingering need for pass rushing help, could a deal for disgruntled Jaguars star Yannick Ngakoue be back on the table? Here's a look at the pros and cons of the Seahawks pursuing a trade for the Pro Bowl edge rusher.
Why Seattle Should Trade for Ngakoue
Earlier this offseason, Carroll told John Clayton of ESPN 710 that the Seahawks desired to add an elite pass rushing talent at the LEO defensive end spot and given his skill set, Ngakoue would be a near-perfect fit at the position.
Though he weighs under 250 pounds, Ngakoue is an explosive upfield rusher who consistently blows past tackles and has rare bend to quickly turn the corner in pursuit of quarterbacks. He can be slippery working off blocks and his frame coupled with his elite quickness allows him to get narrow shooting through gaps on twist stunts.
Along with producing 37.5 sacks in his first four NFL seasons, including a career-high 12.0 sacks in 2017, Ngakoue has amassed 85 quarterback hits and forced 14 fumbles. Back in his breakout 2017 campaign, he led the NFL with six forced fumbles and also returned a fumble for a touchdown. Seattle loves creating turnovers in bunches and he excels in this department.
Just turning 25 years old on March 31, Ngakoue should be entering the prime of his NFL career and he's been very durable. Considering Seattle's recent struggles hitting on first round picks and the overall lack of talent in this year's draft class for edge rushers, surrendering the No. 27 overall pick for him could be a prudent move.
Why Seattle Shouldn't Trade for Ngakoue
Along with giving up at least their first round pick, the Seahawks would have to turn around and pay Ngakoue elite pass rusher money. Right now, the team has less than $12 million in available cap room, which will make fitting in a deal worth $18 million or more per year challenging. Other roster moves would need to be made to afford him.
Though Ngakoue offers greater upside as a pass rusher than Clowney, at least in terms of sacks and quarterback hits, he wouldn't be a natural replacement for him and there would be trade offs going with the younger alternative. Ngakoue has 32 1/2-inch arms and at 246 pounds, he isn't built to hold up at the point of attack as a run defender, while Clowney is elite in that aspect of his game.
From an advanced statistics standpoint, Ngakoue posted an ESPN Pass Rush Win Rate nearly four percent lower than Clowney last season while only being double teamed around 19 percent of his pass rushing snaps. As for Clowney, he commanded double teams more than 26 percent of the time with a less talented supporting cast around him.
Final Verdict: Should Seattle Acquire Ngakoue?
Back in February, sources indicated the Seahawks had inquired about Ngakoue's availability and were interested. Schneider also reached out to the Ravens about Matt Judon, another franchise-tagged pass rusher who may be available in a trade.
At that point, the front office was simply doing what they always do checking in on everything. Clowney remained their top priority and the asking price for both players was beyond what they wanted to spend at the time.
But two months later, with the chances of re-signing Clowney diminishing, Seattle should at least consider revisiting a potential deal with Jacksonville. There isn't a player as young and talented as Ngakoue on the market, and while Everson Griffen would be a more affordable consolation prize and is coming off a Pro Bowl season himself, he will turn 33 years old in December.
Generally speaking, trading high draft capital for a player who also wants a lucrative extension isn't advisable.
But considering their current situation and issues getting to quarterbacks last year, the Seahawks shouldn't have any hesitations about acquiring Ngakoue, who could have the same impact Cliff Avril did upon his arrival in 2013. If Schneider can land him straight up for a first-round pick and has plans in place to create necessary cap space for an extension to facilitate the deal, he should pull the trigger to fix the team's most glaring weakness heading into 2020.