With the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft, teams are in the final stages of preparing for the upcoming NFL season. However, that does not mean every team is done making moves this off-season. They could possibly acquire Yannick Ngakoue.
The Baltimore Ravens have a reputation for making acquisitions later in the off-season, more than most teams, and could do the same in 2020. When the second wave of free agency would begin, due to the compensatory pick period ending, former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome loved finding integral parts for his team. His successor, Eric DeCosta, has already shown he is of the same philosophy; spending cautiously in March and filling in necessary needs in May and June. Enter, Yannick Ngakoue.
Yannick Ngakoue Should Be Trade Target for Baltimore Ravens
The Jacksonville Jaguars pass rusher has had a falling out with the organization since they refused to extend the former Maryland Terp. Ngakoue has made it known that the Jags have refused to commit long-term to him and a parting of the two is imminent. The Jags drafted both Josh Allen in 2019 and K’Lavon Chaisson this past year, putting the writing on the wall for a potential deal to ship Yannick Ngakoue out of Jacksonville.
The Ravens neglected to pick an outside linebacker in the 2020 draft and their shallow pass rush room makes a match between them and Ngakoue a great fit. DeCosta has been searching for a long-term pass rushing presence since he took over the reins from Newsome following the 2018 season. Finding the next Terrell Suggs is almost impossible but the Ravens need more sack production off of the edge. If the price is right, DeCosta should trade for one of the league’s best young edge defenders in Ngakoue.
Baltimore Receives: DE Yannick Ngakoue + 2021 sixth-round pick
Jacksonville Receives: CB Anthony Averett + 2021 third-round pick
This proposal is based largely on the trade of Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks in 2019. The Houston Texans and Clowney were in a similar situation to Jacksonville and Ngakoue. Both teams placed the franchise tag on their respective players and did not deal either prior to that year’s NFL Draft. The Texans received a third-round pick, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, and linebacker Jacob Martin in the deal for Clowney. Ngakoue is coming off a less successful season than Clowney was in 2018 (fewer sacks, fewer tackles, lower graded by Pro Football Focus) thus his value is lower.
The Jaguars and Ngakoue are in a stalemate in which the player wants to receive a long-term extension, perhaps among the highest in the NFL, and Jags management has no plan of giving that to him.
Co-owner of the team, Tony Kahn, recently got into a twitter spout with Ngakoue signifying the end of the pass rusher’s time in Jacksonville. “We been had a discussion that the chargers game was my last game,” Ngakoue stated in his tweet on April 20th. This was following another tweet from March second that read “The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville,” prior to Ngakoue being franchise tagged. Both of these tweets made it clear that Ngakoue will not play in Jacksonville next season and that he will either sit out the entire year or wait for the Jags to move him. This gives Jacksonville little leverage in trying to acquire value for him. Teams around the league know that they can wait a year before giving up nothing for the player.
In this scenario, the Jaguars get a third-round pick, which would be higher than the third-round compensatory pick they would receive if Ngakoue were to be highly paid during the 2021 free agency period, as well as a young developmental corner. Averett showed flashes of solid play as a rookie but underperformed when he was called upon as a starter.
The Ravens would have to part with a very valuable third-round pick but would ultimately acquire one of the league’s best young pass rushers in the deal. Acquiring another Day three pick in 2021 would seem necessary as this would mean the Ravens have already moved each a third, fifth, and seventh-round pick in next year’s draft.
This is A Win-Win For Both Teams
Jacksonville has done a solid job this off-season in acquiring pieces that will be around for the long haul and shipping pieces away that will not. The post Tom Coughlin regime has put the roster in a spot to rebuild over the next couple of years and the Jags adding draft picks is very important at this time. The Jaguars are already in possession of an extra first and fourth-round pick (via the Jalen Ramsey trade) and will be looking to stockpile more selections in their roster’s current state. Jacksonville has already moved former big name free agent signings A.J. Bouye, Nick Foles, and Calais Campbell this off-season. Adding an extra pick in the upcoming draft never hurts and a third-rounder is great value for a player who has made it known he will never play for their current organization again.
The Ravens need pass rushers. If there was one hole on their roster after both free agency and the draft, it’s on the edge. Baltimore currently only has four outside linebackers on their roster (not counting undrafted free agents) and only one, Jaylon Ferguson, is extended past the 2020 season. Acquiring Ngakoue would give the Ravens a player who would bolster a unit that ranked 21st in sacks (37.0) in the league just a year ago. Since entering the league in 2016, Ngakoue ranks 12th in sacks, eighth in quarterback hits, and fourth in forced fumbles. He is also still just 25 years old. Suggs is the only player to register 10.0+ sacks in a single season for the Ravens (2017) since 2015. Surrendering a third-round pick for a young player who fills a need and would likely sign a long-term extension in Baltimore is good value for the Ravens.
The Complication Pertaining To A Trade
The biggest complication to a trade between the Jaguars and Ravens for Ngakoue would be the contract the player would demand. The Ravens aren’t known for breaking the bank on players and Ngakoue has made it known he would like to be paid like one of the best at his position. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that he turned down a short(er)-term deal prior to the 2019 season from the Jaguars that would’ve paid him $19 million per year. If Ngakoue wasn’t willing to accept this a year ago, he probably isn’t going to take less than $20 million per year at this point in time.
The Ravens currently have roughly $11 million in cap space for the upcoming season but could back-load a contract given to Ngakoue. There is also the scenario in which Matt Judon is traded and the Ravens free up his $15.828 million cap hit. Moving Judon and acquiring Ngakoue in a harmonious manner would be very difficult but is still possible. Even after being tagged, Judon has been seen as a popular tag and trade candidate.
If Baltimore felt Yannick Ngakoue was worth the salary he demanded, paying him likely wouldn’t be a huge problem. NFL teams often find unique ways to get the players they want. However, the complication is that extending Ngakoue takes money away from other very valuable pieces. Both left tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marlon Humphrey are due for large extensions of their own and will both likely see raises around $15 million per year. Both have been integral to the Ravens success over the past two seasons.
Probability of a Trade Actually Happening
While a trade between the two teams makes a lot of sense from both perspectives, the Ravens aren’t the type of team that will bring in a young, big name presence and sign them to a large deal, instead of extending the players they already have in-house. The Ravens have a lot of young players currently playing on rookie deals and while that shouldn’t be a problem for the 2020 or 2021 season, things get very complicated at the conclusion of the 2021 season. Assuming both Stanley and Humphrey have already signed extensions by that time, the Ravens would then have tight end Mark Andrews, right tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and the big fish, quarterback Lamar Jackson, looking for new deals.
With all that said, the Ravens are in a position to win now, with a young quarterback, and could very well take advantage of the fact that Jackson is still on his rookie deal. The 2019 NFL MVP has three years left on his rookie contract. Paying $20 million+ for a pass rusher would be steep but could be well worth it if DeCosta continues to find it difficult to acquire an elite edge presence through the draft. Pass rusher is one of the most important positions and securing a talented one, like Yannick Ngakoue, could help turn the Ravens already talented roster into a powerhouse.