Clayton: A Seahawks trade for Yannick Ngakoue would make plenty of sense
Clearly, re-signing Jadeveon Clowney is the most important item on Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s offseason agenda, but the thought of trading for Yannick Ngakoue is an interesting option.
Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com reported the Seahawks have interest in making that trade. It makes sense and Schneider should strongly consider it if Pauline’s terms of a trade are right.
According to Pauline, the Seahawks would give up their first-round pick (27th overall) and their top second-round pick (59th overall) to the Jaguars. In return, the Seahawks would get Ngakoue, who would be under the one-year franchise tag, and the Jaguars’ second-round pick (42nd overall).
In other words, the Seahawks would move the top pick down 14 spots into the second round and give up a second-rounder. That would leave them with Ngakoue and the second-round pick they acquired from Kansas City last year in the Frank Clark trade, which is the 64th pick in the draft.
It’s a trade that makes plenty of sense.
First, the Seahawks would have the certainty of having a defensive end who can get 10 sacks or more. Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks in four NFL seasons. In 2017, his second professional season, he had 12 sacks and went to the Pro Bowl, and the Jaguars made it to the AFC Championship game.
Clowney is a better player than Ngakoue, but who knows what he can get in free agency. To complete the trade with Houston to get Clowney just prior to the 2019 season, the Seahawks agreed to not put the franchise tag on him this offseason. And with many of the top defensive free agents getting franchise tags, Clowney might be the best defensive player available in free agency.
He probably can’t get the biggest defensive contract in the league, which has been speculated, but he should be able to get more than $21 million a year. I don’t think the Seahawks would go that high in the bidding.
The only thing working against Clowney is his injury history. He is more highly regarded than Ngakoue, having made three trips to the Pro Bowl compared to Ngakoue’s one, and having been the first overall pick in a draft while Ngakoue was a third-rounder in 2016.
Clowney is better against the run. Ngakoue is better at sacking the quarterback. But here is a major stat that could let the Seahawks feel alright in paying Ngakoue more than they would Clowney: Ngakoue has missed only one game in his career. The other stat in his favor is that he will turn 25 on March 31, while Clowney turned 27 last month.
Clowney has missed 20 games in six pro seasons and has played all 16 games in a year just once. Because of the injuries, the Seahawks might not offer him a contract longer than three years, and they probably would prefer to keep his salary between $18 million and $20 million.
Back to the trade. It’s pretty clear Ngakoue would be better than any edge rusher the Seahawks would get with their first-round pick. Though it’s a deep draft for edge rushers, it’s not strong up top. Other than Chase Young of Ohio State, who is projected by most to be picked very early, it’s hard to see an edge rusher in this draft who could immediately establish himself as a Pro Bowler.
Let’s say the Seahawks take a defensive end in the first round. If that end doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl in four years, it would be unlikely the Seahawks would put a fifth-year option on him. That means that end would leave after four years.
Ngakoue, meanwhile, is young enough that the Seahawks could justify giving him a five-year contract and still have the option of keeping him longer than a draft choice who wouldn’t go to the Pro Bowl. On top of that, the Seahawks would get a third-round compensatory pick in 2021 if Clowney leaves. They would lose a second-rounder and drop 14 spots in the draft this year, but they would get a 2021 third-round choice in return.
It’s a deal that could work.