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Is Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue targeting $21 million per year for new contract?

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue skipped mandatory minicamp in hopes of holding out to get a new contract. This came after he initially announced he would suit up for the Jaguars this season whether he got a new contract or not.

Per Philip Heilman of the Florida-Times Union, who spoke to salary cap expert Jason Fitzgerald of overthecap.com, Ngakoue’s new contract is likely to set the market for pass-rushers.

“For a player like this, you are probably looking at a contract that exceeds that of (Frank) Clark and (Demarcus) Lawrence,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email to the Times-Union earlier this week. “So a ballpark of $21 million a season with around $65 million guaranteed for injury.”

Ngakoue, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal, is set to collect just $2.025 million in base salary this season. He has completely outplayed his third-round rookie contract, and since entering the league in 2016, Ngakoue has more sacks than Lawrence, Dee Ford, Trey Flowers, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and a host of other defenders who make more money than him. He deserves to be paid more than what he is currently making.

Ngakoue has accumulated 29.5 quarterback sacks and 10 forced fumbles during his three-year career. He also has racked up 70 quarterback hits, 29 tackles for loss, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. To put it mildly, he’s a game-wrecker for opposing offenses. He still needs to improve against the run, but his pass-rushing prowess is top-notch.

At just 24-years-old, the Jaguars would be wise to lock up Ngakoue who will still produce at a high level for many years to come. It has not been an often occurrence for the Jaguars to groom homegrown talent like this — and three of the players from the 2016 draft (Ngakoue, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack) — are each likely to receive a second contract from Jacksonville.

The Jaguars may balk at a number as high as $21 million per year for a non-quarterback, and this may or may not be the number Ngakoue’s camp is targeting, but any deal that gets done is likely to crack the $100 million dollar range. Jacksonville’s front office needs to do whatever it can to assure the transcendent pass rusher stays with the organization during the prime of his career.

Jacksonville does not have a ton of cap space to work with right now, with just under $9 million available. However, from my somewhat limited understanding, if Telvin Smith does indeed sit out this season, the Jags can recoup the additional $9.75 million he would have been owed for his base salary. The Jags can offer Ngakoue a large signing bonus (around $20 million) that will go immediately to him with a low base salary, and spread that signing bonus out over five years for cap space purposes, which is a likely route to go.

No matter how it happens, this is a deal that needs to get done sooner rather than later. The Jaguars can’t afford to wait on this, even with the franchise tag in play, as Ngakoue’s long-term price tag is only going to go up from here. Hopefully the two sides are able to reach an agreement prior to training camp.