Yannick Ngakoue was on the path to being one of the top edge rushers in the NFL after some incredible performances with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he’s been up and down since then, having played for four teams in three years. Now, hitting free agency, he’s seeing his options dwindle as teams have already signed away the edge rushers they plan to roll with heading into the season.
Who Will Sign Yannick Ngakoue?
The upside for Ngakoue is pretty enormous, and teams needing an edge rusher would be wise to investigate the veteran despite some bumps in the road — after all, he ranks ninth in sacks since joining the NFL in 2016.
Given that the edge defender draft class has a number of question marks — albeit with a lot of talent — there’s a reason that Ngakoue should be able to drum up a market. On the other hand, a number of teams that need an edge rusher have already employed Ngakoue, and he’s had mixed feelings about his time with them.
He told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN that he enjoyed playing in Minnesota but felt he “wasn’t utilized the right way,” adding that “Pass rushers need rhythm. You have to have multiple plays to set up moves, and I felt like I didn’t have that there.”
The Chicago Bears Could Keep Spending To Immediately Return To Relevance
The Bears should secure a pass rusher in the draft, but they need more than one. Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson are not yet slated to take on a full-time role, and adding Ngakoue to a roster that has a first- or second-round pick pass rusher would be smart.
The Bears have invested an extraordinary number of resources into the team this year on both sides of the ball but still have a ways to go before they can be comfortable with their competitiveness and have nearly $40 million in remaining cap space regardless. Rounding out other elements of the roster will be a big part of their ability to continue competing in the NFC North.
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When head coach Matt Eberflus was asked to describe his ideal edge rusher at the NFL Combine, he seemingly described Ngakoue to a tee. “I would just say the ability to turn the corner,” he said of his primary edge rusher traits. “When guys start to rush, and they get their approach, when they get to the move area, the ones that can’t get there, they start working away from the quarterback.”
“The ones that do,” Eberflus said, “they have everything pointed — their hips, their toes, their knees — everything toward the quarterback. And they have the ability to work their move around the edge. And then when they get past the quarterback, they have strength to be able to work back inside.”
Ngakoue Could Unlock Myles Garrett for the Cleveland Browns
The Browns have moved on from Jadeveon Clowney and need someone opposite Myles Garrett in order to set their pass rush up for success. After signing Dalvin Tomlinson in the interior, they’ve already committed to building up their defensive line but need to do more to make that unit completely effective.
With Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator, they should be able to effectively use the wide techniques that Ngakoue has become comfortable with.
Indianapolis Colts Could Re-Sign Ngakoue and Re-Establish Their Defense
Gus Bradley has employed Ngakoue in his defenses at multiple stops — Jacksonville, Las Vegas, and Indianapolis. Bringing Ngakoue back to Indy after a muted free agency makes a fair degree of sense. His 9.5 sacks last year for the Colts didn’t set the world on fire but was fairly helpful for a defense otherwise lacking pass rush.
The Colts still have reason to be excited about Kwity Paye, but having a strong stable of pass rushers — with or without a rookie addition — will be critical to get the defense back to relevance. Even as a rebuilding team, signing Ngakoue would make a lot of sense.
The Denver Broncos Have a Lot of Pass-Rush Ground To Make Up
The Broncos have the least amount of cap room on this list but still have about $8 million to address a position they made substantially weaker when they traded away Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins. Adding Zach Allen to help with the pass rush shouldn’t stop them from adding someone like Ngakoue because they play functionally different positions.
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Allen and Ngakoue could even line up on the same side of the ball and, if done properly, could combine like Aldon Smith and Justin Smith did for San Francisco a few years ago.
If the Los Angeles Rams Want To Win, Why Not Ngakoue?
The Rams’ EDGE room consists of Michael Hoecht, Keir Thomas, Zach VanValkenburg, and Daniel Hardy. It’s not a stacked room, and it could do with some bargains if the Rams are really committed to competing this year.
If not, they would be smart to pass on Ngakoue and move on, but they have indicated that they expect to win this year. He would be an instant upgrade and should be comfortable with what a defense like this would ask him to do.