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No one cares how good a pass rusher is against the run

New Orleans Saints v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Recently it was reported that pending free agent pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue was looking for a contract that averaged about $22 million annually. When I saw the Tweet come across my timeline, my immediate reaction was “Yeah, duh.” That sounds about right. Ngakoue reportedly turned down a deal that averaged $19 million last offseason, so the reported figure now kind of tracks what he’s been asking for.

Frankly, that number sounds about right. He’s a consistent and productive NFL pass rusher who has never had less than 8.0 sacks in a season and is a threat to create turnovers by stripping the ball from the quarterback. Those are the exact type of players that get paid that kind of money.

The reaction to the report of what he’s looking for did come with some predictable reactions from fans and media, some of which don’t really jive, despite the fact that $22 million annually would make him the highest paid defensive end in the NFL.

Being the highest paid defensive end in the NFL only means you’re the latest one to sign, however. People need to get over the “highest paid” label, because more often than not all it literally means is the most recently signed one. It will quickly get overshadowed by the next good pass rusher to get paid. It does not matter, at all.

The next big reaction was more or less “That’s too much!” But, what is enough? If you thought he was stupid for not taking the $19 million per year in 2019, is paying another $3 million per year really a deal breaker for you? Why does that suddenly push it to “no way!”

I’ve seen a lot of people also say Ngakoue isn’t worth the same kind of deals that Demarcus Lawrence, Khalil Mack and Frank Clark recently signed because he’s “not good against the run”. Well, I hate to break it to you but... No one cares how good a good pass rusher is against the run except radio hosts fishing for a talking point and fans worried about a big contract.

Is Ngakoue great against the run? Nope. Is he an actively liability against it? Nope.

There is a large area between great against and a liability against and Ngakoue is about square in the middle. He’s not the reason the Jaguars were awful against the run in 2019, probably not one of the Top 5 reasons. Guys like Mack, Clark, Lawrence and Ngakoue get paid to hit the quarterback, not the running back. It’s just a nice cherry on top, like when people sing the praises of a wide receivers run blocking. No one is getting extra millions added to their deal for that, it’s just a plus.

The last weird point people try to make is that Josh Allen makes Ngakoue expendable, which I’m still trying to wrap my head around. On the flip side, Allen being locked into a rookie contract that cannot be extended for another two years actually makes it more reasonable and smarter to pay a 24-year old consistent pass rusher to pair him with.

It’s value town.

Anyway, I just felt like all that needed to be said. As I Tweeted earlier today, since it apparently bears weekly repeating:

The highest paid player is always the most recent signed. It’s irrelevant.

Not being great against the run doesn’t mean a liability.

The presence of a young, cost-controlled pass rusher makes it smarter to pay a 24-year old pass rusher.