The Jacksonville Jaguars will press forward without one of their star players for the second year in a row, but where exactly does it leave them as a franchise?
Yesterday, the Jaguars agreed to a deal sending defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
The deal will include a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft that can turn into a fourth round pick if Ngakoue makes the Pro Bowl, or a third round pick if Ngakoue makes the Pro Bowl and the Vikings win the Super Bowl.
Ngakoue, a Pro Bowl-level talent, was franchise tagged earlier this offseason, and will never play another down for the franchise. This was always the most-likely path for the fifth-year player, but why?
After being selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Ngakoue has gone on to accumulate 37.5 sacks, a franchise record for a player in the first four years of his career. His 37.5 sacks also ranks second all-time behind defensive end Tony Brackens (55 sacks), who played for the team from 1996-2003.
Every analysis, opinion, or sign would point to Ngakoue becoming the next Jaguars star to sign a lucrative contract extension that would make him one of the richest players in all of football. However, after hitting a snag in negotiations with then-Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, the talks were done and so was Ngakoue.
After holding out for 11 days during training camp in 2019, Ngakoue would play on a significantly less payday than a reported ~$19M per year deal that was offered. While that deal has plenty of wiggle room to be critiqued, what followed shows Ngakoue was no longer bothered by the money.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Ngakoue will be taking a pay cut worth nearly $6M, making $12M on his one-year deal, instead of the $17.8M he would have made in Jacksonville had the defensive end decided to play this year with the Jaguars.
The fact that Ngakoue wanted out of Jacksonville, and was willing to do everything in his power to do so is well-documented. Thus, it should come of no surprise that he ultimately decided that playing for nearly 1⁄3 of his projected salary for this season, on a new team, was worth it.
Unlike the deal Jadeveon Clowney agreed to in order to facilitate a trade between the Houston Texans and the Seattle Seahawks last season, Ngakoue will reportedly not be granted the promise of being allowed to enter free agency next year, the Vikings will still be able to franchise tag him if they cannot come to a multi-year extension following the season.
A fractured relationship turned ugly, the Jaguars and Ngakoue were never going to come to an agreement, and now he will be for a new team, a new chapter, as he stated in his thoughtful goodbye to the organization.
“It’s evident that my time in Jacksonville is up,” Ngakoue tweeted Sunday. “But I want to say thank you to the organization for making it a home for myself for 4 years, and that I’ll never forget . That chapter is over with now. Nothing lasts forever. But I’m truly excited to start this new chapter! SKOL!”
As for the Jaguars, they will save $17.8M on this year’s salary cap once the trade is made official, which, according to OverTheCap.com, will bring the team’s salary cap space for this season to ~$33,863,012, more than enough to facilitate any deal the team would want to make this year if there is one to be made.
In acquiring a second-round selection from the Vikings for the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jaguars will now have 10 picks to play with next year, including four in the first two rounds.
Below is a breakdown of the Jaguars’ 2021 draft picks:
- Two first-round picks (JAX, LAR (via trade, Jalen Ramsey))
- Two second-round picks (JAX, MIN (via trade, Yannick Ngakoue))
- One third-round pick (JAX)
- Two fourth-round picks (JAX, LAR (via trade, Jalen Ramsey))
- One fifth-round pick (JAX)
- One sixth-round pick (JAX)
- One seventh-round pick (JAX)
Since the 2020 NFL Draft, if the Jaguars retain and use all 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the team will have selected 21 players across two years, a clear sign of a rebuilding team. This rebuild has come only just under three years following the team’s AFC Championship game run in 2017.
Of the players who made up the ‘17 Jaguars roster, just 13 remain, including: RG A.J. Cann, WR Keelan Cole, LB Myles Jack, DT Abry Jones, K Josh Lambo, C Brandon Linder, DE/OLB Lerentee McCray, TE James O’Shaughnessy, LT Cam Robinson, C/G Tyler Shatley, DL Dawuane Smoot, WR Dede Westbrook and S Jarrod Wilson.
The only remaining impact players from the team’s ‘17 defense that remain are Jack and Jones. Wilson was not yet a starter for the Jaguars as that position was held by Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church.
Replacing Ngakoue will not be easy, however, the team was proactive in its attempt to do so earlier this spring when the Jaguars selected defensive end/outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson with the 20th overall selection. Chaisson was already expected to play a major role this year and beyond, and now he definitely will with Ngakoue no longer in the picture.
While the team is certainly retooling or rebuilding, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he doesn’t believe this one will be a slow rebuild, in fact, he believes with the pieces already added such as linebacker Joe Schobert, tight end Tyler Eifert, and the dozen or so rookies that were selected this season, the team is heading in the right direction.
“This is a thing where we felt like we could get some pieces where we needed some players,” Caldwell told radio show hosts Alex Marvez and Charles Davis earlier this month.
“We had 12 draft picks, 12 rookies that we like, some college free agents that are in here, and then adding a (free agent linebacker) Joe Schobert and a (free agent tight end ) Tyler Eifert in positions of need where we haven’t had guys since (retired Jaguars LB) Paul Posluszny or (former Jaguars TE) Mercedes Lewis.”
Caldwell later added that with quarterback Garnder Minshew II heading into his second season after taking the team to a 6-6 record in 12 starts he feels the team can take off “relatively quickly.”
Certainly, the Jaguars still have a long ways to go, especially from an outsiders perspective of the team. The team is projected to have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL as the 12 rookies, who each have a shot at making the team this year, would indicate, and some of the best players on the team are second year players.
However, the Jaguars are in a position to make this rebuild much faster than the one that took place from 2013-2017, and have the draft capital and money to do so without ageing the roster to a point where yet another rebuild will be needed in a year or two. All of this, however, will be predicated by the decisions Caldwell and his staff will make.
Moving forward, along with the young players the Jaguars will be bringing in this year and next year, the team will have plenty of money to play with in the 2021 offseason.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Jaguars are expected, without factoring in the COVID-19 salary cap adjustments, to have ~$89,656,498 in cap space next year. This is plenty of room to re-sign anyone on the roster, while also having space to sign unrestricted free agents.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and this situation is far from ideal, however, the team could come out of this with a net positive if the right decisions are made.