News & Analysis

2020 NFL Free Agency: Jacksonville Jaguars franchise tag pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue

Days before the franchise tag deadline, the Jacksonville Jaguars placed their tag on edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue for a guaranteed price tag around $18,000,000 for the 2020 NFL season.

Despite Ngakoue verbally expressing his desire to avoid the franchise tag and move on from Jacksonville, the team decided to ignore his wishes and retain the rights to the highly productive former third-round draft pick. However, the recent league-wide trend of tagging-and-trading impending free agents could see the Jaguars gain compensation before jettisoning him to another team this offseason.

Reasons to Stay

During his four seasons with the Jaguars, Ngakoue has earned a career pass-rush grade of 86.5, 14th among edge rushers league-wide. He is the 26th-ranked player on PFF’s 2020 Free Agent board, and he has the fourth-most hits on the quarterback (55) among all edge rushers over the last four seasons. 

Ngakoue is a pure pass-rusher with speed to turn the corner and close to the quarterback quickly. He wins with both speed and power against larger offensive tackles where his hand placement helps him to win with both leverage and athleticism.

Ngakoue was selected to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 2016. Among members of his draft class, only Joey Bosa (233) generated more total pressures than Yannick Ngakoue's 232 during those four years.

Ngakoue has been less productive as a run defender — his career-high run-defense grade of only 60.0 came in 2018 — however, In that same season, he also earned his best single-season PFF pass-rush grade (88.2) off the back of 15 sacks, 15 hits and 53 hurries. 

Reasons To Tag and Trade

This time last year, we saw edge rushers like Dee Ford, Jadeveon Clowney and Frank Clark receive the franchise designation before being traded away for draft compensation prior to the start of the 2019 regular season, and only Clowney failed to land a long-term contract with his new team. So, with the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft being void of quality depth with edge rushers, there will undoubtedly be a market for Ngakoue's services.

Reasons To Go

The Jacksonville Jaguars are clearly embarking upon a major rebuild. Former top draft picks, wide receiver Allen Robinson II and outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., were allowed to leave in 2018 via free agency and trade; before last season’s trade deadline, the team sent cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams in return for their first-round pick in the 2020 draft; earlier this month, they traded their other starting cornerback, A.J. Bouye, to the Denver Broncos for a 2020 fourth-round pick. Then, just two days after placing the franchise tag on Ngakoue, the team traded defensive tackle Calais Campbell for a fifth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens.

Players = Production

Last season, both Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell helped the Jacksonville Jaguars defense earn the ninth-highest pass-rush grade (73.7) among teams while collecting 65 hits on the quarterback, fourth-most in the NFL. Ngakoue also teamed up with Campbell and rookie Josh Allen to help the Jags earn a 10th-ranked win rate of 51.2% on their 588 total pass-rush snaps. By trading the 33-year-old Calais Campbell, the Jaguars freed up $15,000,000 in salary cap space, but, of course, they'll also see his plus production — he produced 35 defensive stops and 71 total pressures in 2019 — depart with him.

Ngakoue is also a candidate for a potential trade before the start of the regular season. His eight sacks one year ago were second on the team behind rookie Josh Allen, and his 51 pressures ranked second behind Campbell. The Jaguars are loaded with 11 draft picks in the upcoming 2020 draft, including two in the first round. The Jaguars could add to this by netting a second or third-round pick in 2021 in exchange for Ngakoue. 

Potential Landing Places

After trading for Jadeveon Clowney just one year ago, the Seattle Seahawks seem prepared to move on and replenish through another trade or free-agency acquisition. Even with Clowney in 2019, the Seahawks finished with a 29th-ranked PFF pass-rush grade of 61.9 while generating the third-fewest quarterback pressures (112). The Seahawks also tied the Miami Dolphins for the fewest sacks (12) among all 32 teams last season. So, in exchange for a future draft pick, Yannick Ngakoue could add immediate production to a Seahawks defense that is starving for pass-rush talent. 

The Washington Redskins will most likely look to the draft to improve their struggling pass-rush from one year ago. In 2019, the side produced a 31st-ranked 103 total pressures, and Ryan Kerrigan (73.4 pass-rush grade) was the team’s most productive pass-rusher. So, by adding Chase Young through the draft and Ngakoue via trade, Ron Rivera could be one step closer to building his ideal defense. Teamed with Kerrigan and Chase Young, Ngakoue would feel right at home where he played nearby at the University of Maryland and set a school single-season record in 2015 with 13.5 sacks.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
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