After ’20 trade rumors, could Seahawks land Yannick Ngakoue now?
Last offseason, the Seahawks’ top priority was improving the pass rush. As such, two big names were routinely linked to Seattle whether it was in free agency or through trade.
The free agent, of course, was defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who spent the 2019 season in Seattle after he was traded from the Houston Texans. Clowney ultimately waited until late in the offseason to sign a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, but injuries limited him to just eight games and he didn’t record a sack.
The player that the Seahawks were tied to in trade rumors was then-Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who was very vocal about wanting to be traded to another team.
Rumors swirled for a while that the Seahawks could give up one of their top 2020 draft picks to bring Ngakoue to the Pacific Northwest, but that never happened. Instead, the Jaguars traded Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings for a 2021 second-round pick as well as a conditional fifth-round selection, and Seattle instead made a different superstar addition to its defense by trading for safety Jamal Adams.
That wasn’t the only time that Ngakoue would be moved in 2020, however, as after five games in Minnesota, the Vikings traded him to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.
Ngakoue, who turns 26 on March 31, is now a free agent, however. With a lot of uncertainty about the defense, especially on the defensive line, perhaps the Seahawks could once again be one of Ngakoue’s top suitors. But should they make a run at the young pass rusher?
On paper, it seems like any NFL team would love to add a player of Ngakoue’s status. Since he was drafted in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Ngakoue has been a reliable pass rusher, recording eight or more sacks every season. He has 45.5 career sacks, 18 forced fumbles and 96 quarterback hits in 78 games. Additionally, he’s stayed healthy, missing just two regular season games in his career.
Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy discussed Ngakoue on Friday, saying that while he’s great player, he probably won’t be in play for Seattle this offseason for a number of reasons.
“Not at the price point that Ngakoue is going to be looking for,” Heaps said. “I think that he’s a unique talent, I think that as a pass rusher, if you can get him in that role, that would be fantastic. But I just think Yannick Ngakoue’s price tag typically is going to be a little too high.’
Ngakoue signed a franchise tag worth nearly $18 million last season before he was traded to Minnesota. To help facilitate a trade, Ngakoue took a pay cut and received roughly $12 million in 2020.
As he will be entering his age-26 season and has been one of the NFL’s best pass rushers over the last five years, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ngakoue will try to secure an expensive long-term deal on the open market. Part of why Ngakoue’s time with the Jaguars came to an end was because he was upset that the organization had stopped negotiations for a long-term contract extension during the 2019 offseason. According to ESPN, Ngakoue turned down an offer from the Jaguars that would have paid him roughly $19 million annually.
If the Seahawks were to sign Ngakoue, it would likely require a lot of financial resources. Seattle doesn’t have much to spend at the moment, and veteran cuts and/or trades seem likely in order for the organization to be better positioned when it comes to the shrinking salary cap for next season. To sign Ngakoue, it would likely require the Seahawks to part ways with one of their better defenders.
“If getting Yannick Ngakoue means you’re going to replace (defensive end) Carlos Dunlap, no thank you, because Ngakoue is not a very well-rounded defender, whereas Carlos Dunlap does an excellent job in pass rush and in defending the run,” Heaps said. “I want somebody in that Leo position to be able to do both and be able to hold down both areas, and that’s what you’ve typically had in the past when your defense has been very good and has been firing on all cylinders. I think I’m good on Yannick Ngakoue if it means it’s going to cost you Carlos Dunlap.”
Dunlap, 32, is entering the last year of his contract and is set to make over $14 million in 2021. As his contract has no guarantees, there have been some rumors circulating that the Seahawks may try and cut Dunlap and attempt to re-sign him on a less expensive deal, or the team may try and sign him to a contract extension, which would lessen his 2021 cap hit.
You can hear Heaps’ full thoughts on Ngakoue during the Three Questions segment in the podcast at this link or in the player below.
Jake & Stacy