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Free agent profile: Edge Yannick Ngakoue

Could Paton bring in a failed Viking to replace Von Miller?

Dallas Cowboys v Baltimore Ravens
Could Ngakoue replace Von Miller?
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

If the Broncos elect to move on from Von Miller they could elect to pursue a premier edge rusher to replace him. While Bradley Chubb made the Pro Bowl, he also missed time in both of the last two seasons and the Broncos may not see Malik Reed as a starting caliber edge rusher.

A reunion of sorts could make sense for George Paton’s Broncos.

Player Profile

Yannick Ngakoue, Edge, Baltimore Ravens
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 252 lbs.
Age: 25
Experience: 5 NFL Seasons

A third round pick by the Jaguars in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ngakoue quickly outplayed his draft slot with eight sacks as a rookie. Over his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars Ngakoue notched 196 individual pass pressures, 37.5 sacks, and 85 quarterback hits to go with 14 forced fumbles and 42 tackles for a loss. The way he stuffed the stat sheet made it obvious he was going to demand a real pay day in free agency. Instead of extending him, the Jaguars placed a franchise tag on their star pass rusher.

Things got ugly in the days before the 2020 NFL draft.

The Jaguars didn’t trade their disgruntled star until the end of August when George Paton’s Minnesota Vikings acquired Ngakoue for a 2021 second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022. After sacking the quarterback five times in his first six games, they turned around and dealt him to the Ravens for a 2021 third and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.

Why it makes sense

Ngakoue was traded twice and still finished with 48 pressures and eight sacks by Sports Info Solutions charting. He did this barely knowing his teammates and being forced to adjust to two different systems in a season where practice time was hard to come by. He’s a talented pass rusher who can win with speed, power, finesse, and technique. He also turns 26 in March, an age when most edge rushers peak. His best football could be ahead of him.

The fact Minnesota had to make painful cuts to comply with the 2020 salary cap should be considered when evaluating Ngakoue’s production with the Vikings. Due to Danielle Hunter’s injury he was the primary edge threat during his time in Minnesota and this coincided with the first career starts for both of their rookie cornerbacks. As one would expect, things were rough on the backend early and that makes it harder for the front to pressure the quarterback.

While the Ravens only played Ngakoue for 332 snaps as a pass rush specialist, John Harbaugh attributed it to the loaded position room and how late the edge rusher joined the roster.

“We had a unique situation here with all the outside ‘backers we had,” Harbaugh said. “So, going forward, if [Ngakoue] chooses, and we work it out and he’s here, it’ll be a little different, because he’ll be here from the beginning, and he’ll be starting, and he’ll get a lot more snaps than he got this year.”

Why it doesn’t make sense

There’s some concern he’s merely a good pass rusher, not a great one. While the situation he found himself in wasn’t ideal, Ngakoue generated all 17 individual pressures across his 297 snaps in Minnesota. His pressure numbers with Baltimore came as a pass rush specialist in Wink Martindale’s blitz heavy scheme. Additionally he always had talent around him on the line during his time in Jacksonville and for most of his tenure the secondary featured Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

Ngakoue isn’t good at the point of attack which could create issues when the Broncos face off against strong rushing attacks. The fact Baltimore did choose to utilize him solely as a pass rusher is notable for the fact he isn’t a strong run defender. Outside of his stint with the Ravens Ngakoue has played in an even front for the majority of his career which raises questions about how he’d transition to a Fangio 3-4 that would ask him to play coverage snaps.

Baltimore gave up a 3rd round pick to acquire him last year so it seems safe to assume they want to bring him back. If he becomes available, cost is probably the biggest factor. Last summer the Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs assumed Ngakoue would average $18-20 million per year on his next contract. His age and profile makes him one of the more appealing pass rushers on the market. He won’t come cheap.

Final Thoughts

The fact a player like Yannick Ngakoue is probably going to command $18-20 million is exactly why I’d prefer the Broncos stick with Von Miller for 2021 and assess their need at edge from there.