Time’s Running Out: Jaguars Ngakoue Decision Looming

By Liam Wirsansky on May 22, 2020

Since the 2019 NFL Offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been dealing with a disgruntled star in DE Yannick Ngakoue. His relationship with the team deteriorated progressively through the season after they failed to have him sign a contract extension with the team prior to the beginning of the season. This extension included a holdout from the team’s offseason training camp that accrued him a fine of over $400,000. Ngakoue eventually returned and played out the season on his rookie contract, which earned him just slightly over $2 million dollars, nut he was unable to work out a deal with the front office.

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Since the offseason has begun, the Jaguars have made it clear that they’d like to retain him and that keeping him, or at least getting compensation for his departure, is their priority with the team franchise tagging him before the deadline. Ngakoue’s lack of control over his own destiny and disagreements over his contract with the front office has caused him to lash out publicly online against the Jaguars, making it clear that he no longer wants to play in Duval County. He has even gone so far as to directly call out Tony Khan, the son of owner, Shahid Khan, and demanding an orchestration of his exit from Jacksonville.

Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, Ngakoue was one of the hottest names to be listed as a potential trade candidate. This was due to his seemingly irreparable relationship with the Jaguars and how the team had been losing leverage and value as the draft came closer. Staying put in their draft order position, the Jaguars failed to trade Ngakoue, raising many questions and speculation as to what his future with the team would be. With the addition of DE K’lavon Chaisson in the first round of the draft, many believe that Ngakoue’s replacement is already on the roster, but Ngakoue remains to be a generational talent at a premier position, and the Jaguars would be foolish to simply just let him go, which is why they still haven’t. As the season approaches it seems more and more likely that the Jaguars decide on one of two approaches to take with Ngakoue, as their time to make a decision runs out.

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Trade Him:

After the NFL Draft was over, Jaguars General Manager, Dave Caldwell was asked in an interview about whether or not any trades were offered to them for Ngakoue during the draft, denying the notion emphatically, replying “Truth be told, we exercised the franchise tender. We weren’t able to get a trade. We actually weren’t even really able to get an offer,” and asserting themselves as the supposed ultimate authority on Ngakoue’s future. All of what Caldwell said could be the truth, as well as a smokescreen to maintain that leverage over him, but if the rumors were true and the Jaguars were offered a first round pick and more in return for his services, than they would be hard pressed to have found a better deal.

With the youth movement and overhaul in the draft and free agency on the defensive side of the ball, the team would be smart to continue the cleanse of regressive and reproachful behavior in the locker room, and get the most return for Ngakoue as possible. As the season starts and the standings start to take shape, as well as injuries and identified needs on teams, Ngakoue’s value will rend higher as the mid-season trade deadline approaches, especially if Ngakoue decides to hold out and has a fresh body and newly rekindled spirit for the team that acquires him. With 8.0 sacks and 4 forced fumbles, Ngakoue has shown no signs of slowing down, and his services should be in high demand for teams in need of a steady pass rush and one-man wrecking crew. Expect the Jaguars to aim for a first round pick and some additional later round picks with a trade prior to the deadline.

Keep Him (or Die Trying):

Already second on the team’s all-time sack list with 37.5 sacks after only four years, Ngakoue has proven himself to be a staple of the Jacksonville Jaguars defense and has merited his value to the team. The Jaguars have made it clear on multiple occasions that they would like to retain him if possible, with Caldwell stating, “But I would say that is priority No. 1. To make sure that he comes back to Jacksonville and that he is a Jacksonville Jaguar. So hopefully we can get that done where he’s here for a long period of time,” in a press conference at the beginning of the offseason. The General Manager also made comments regarding his position with the Jaguars following the draft, stating, “I think his options are very limited at this point in time…We’ll welcome him back with open arms when he’s ready to come back and we look forward to it,” establishing a firm hope that he could return if he so chose, but at the discretion of the Jaguars.

The best outcome for the Jaguars would be for Ngakoue to remain with the team and for them to resign him to an extension, but even with their added leverage, the relationship between the team and player seems strained beyond repair. Odder things in sports have happened, and money certainly has the power to change minds, but Ngakoue’s comments and attitude have been clear from the get go, and his pursuit to get out of Jacksonville has been long and dragged out. As the Jaguars continue to keep him under contract, they risk the possibility that they are losing trade value, especially if this extends into the start of the season and he decides to holdout, similarly to Washington Redskins LT Trent Williams last season. If this were to happen the Jaguars would be without a leading talent on the field, and teams would most likely lower their offering price because they know that Ngakoue will no longer play for the Jaguars.

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Unless the Jaguars are able to change Ngakoue’s attitude and soon, they may be forced into a tight situation of sitting, waiting, and flexing their contractual control over Ngakoue in a messy bout that’s sure to result in his departure from the team via trade. Ultimately, it’s up to the Jaguars to gauge what return on investment they need from Ngakoue and what they’re willing to risk in the process of getting it.

 

Liam Wirsansky is a Senior at Florida State University, pursuing a double major in Theatre and Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT). He serves as the President and Artistic Director of White Mouse Theatre Productions at FSU and is also the playwright of the plays, Moonchildren and Finding a New Year.

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