Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has ended his months-long holdout from the team ended today, with the Pro Bowl defensive end reporting to team facilities. The team is preparing to begin a week of practices with the Baltimore Ravens, that will culminate in Thursday night’s preseason opener between the two teams.
Yannick Ngakoue on his way to his first practice. pic.twitter.com/y1PnG9pREh— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) August 4, 2019
Ngakoue had been absent from all team activities since May, when he abruptly left OTA workouts shortly after stating to the media that he would attend all team-mandated events despite wanting a new contract.
Though he has returned to begin the 2019 season with the team, there has not been an agreement reached on a new deal and the prevailing belief from sources close to the situation is for Ngakoue to play this season on the final year of his current deal, with the team then opting to use the franchise tag on him this February when the designations become available for the 2020 season. The tag will allow the Jaguars to retain his rights for the ‘20 season, while allowing the two sides to either iron out a new contract at that time or opening up the possibility of a trade, with the team receiving first-round draft compensation in return from another team wishing to deal for him.
While the team certainly does not come off with great optics in not paying a homegrown player who has beyond a doubt earned a new deal at his fair market value, Ngakoue and his representation are taking a huge risk themselves in gambling on an injury-free and equally productive season, while knowing they’ll likely see themselves back at the same bargaining table this winter without many cards to play outside of a sign and trade to a new team, which teams are usually very hesitant to do for a player who isn’t considered an elite talent.
Ngakoue reporting allows him to avoid losing a year of credit towards unrestricted free agency, which would have been the case had he not returned by August 6th. What is unknown is whether or not the team will forgive what has totaled close to $500,000 in fines for missing both the team’s mandatory mini-camp in June and the first two weeks of training camp.
Ngakoue is scheduled to make $2,025,000 this season, and the team enforcing what would be nearly a quarter of his annual salary this year could only add to what’s been a contentious negotiation process.