Yannick Ngakoue isn’t worth trading for. The New York Jets need to avoid making a disastrous move for an overrated player.
Tuesday afternoon, Micahel Lombardi of the Athletic broke news that a Yannick Ngakoue trade was close. He named the New York Jets as the team deep in talks for the star edge rusher. The deal would see the Jets send a second-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for their malcontented franchise player.
This move seems very anti-Joe Douglas. The Jets general manager preaches patience, value, and character. Making a move for Ngakoue flies in the face of all of those values.
The New York Jets certainly need a pass rusher and Ngakoue would likely be the best the team has had since John Abraham. That doesn’t mean this a move the Jets should make.
Ngakoue comes with his fair share of warts that make him a huge question mark. From his run defense, to scheme fit, to character concerns, to his contract demands, trading for Ngakoue just doesn’t make sense for this team.
If the Jets do send a high draft pick for the mercurial edge rusher, it could be a disastrous move.
The numbers and scheme fit
Yannick Ngakoue is a great pass rusher. There is little argument there. However, his numbers in that phase of the game have declined in each of the last two seasons. After a breakout 2017 season that saw Ngakoue rack up 12 sacks, he hasn’t broken double digits since.
Ngakoue had just eight sacks and 46 total pressures in 2019. Jadeveon Clowney had three sacks and 57 pressures in 2019. The sacks are clearly a huge difference, but the overall pass rush productivity actually leans in favor of Clowney, who is a free agent.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ngakoue is a borderline unplayable run defender. The edge rusher missed 20% of his tackles in back to back years. He makes up for it with disruptive plays that see him break into the backfield once or twice a game, but he misses tackles at such a high rate that it’s impossible to rely on him in the run game. Pro Football Focus agrees. The highest run defense grade Ngakoue had in his career was a 60 in 2018.
So, when you look at the numbers objectively one thing becomes clear, Yannick Ngakoue is overrated. He’s a slightly above average pass rusher who has more sacks than his pressures should allow, and he’s an atrocious run defender.
How much worse would he look in Gregg Williams‘ system? Ngakoue has never been a stand-up edge rusher in his life, and that would be his primary role with the Jets. Would he be able to adjust to that new role and succeed? It’s possible, but it’s more likely that he’d struggle, at least to start, and would need time to adjust. That only further decreases his value.
Put it all together and Ngakoue is an overrated player who doesn’t fit the New York Jets’ defensive scheme. Does that seem like a player that Joe Douglas should be spending premium draft picks on?
Yannick Ngakoue is under the franchise tag for the 2020 season. The New York Jets or any team that Ngakoue gets traded to wouldn’t be able to extend him. That means eating an $18 million cap hit in 2020. The Jets could certainly afford it, but it would cut into their 2021 cap space in a huge way.
In the NFL, unused cap space rolls over to the next year. That means trading for Ngakoue would eat $18 million in cap space away from the 2021 Jets even if they don’t re-sign him.
Speaking of re-signing him, Ngakoue reportedly wants a contract around $22 million per year. Only three edge rushers are paid that high—Joey Bosa ($27 million), Myles Garrett ($25 million), and Khalil Mack ($23.5 million). Ngakoue isn’t in the same tier as those guys.
Remember, Ngakoue had 46 total pressures and eight sacks in 15 games in 2019. Bosa had 95 total pressures and 11.5 sacks, Garret had 48 and 10 sacks in 10 games, and Mack had 81 total pressures and 8.5 sacks. Not to mention that all three are at least above average run defenders.
The only other pass rushers to top $20 million a year are DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark. Lawrence, in a career-worst year, had five sacks and 52 total pressures, but made up for that with PFF’s 12th best-run defense grade among edge rushers.
Clark had eight sacks and 46 pressures, identical to Ngakoue. Clark also posted a run defense grade of 82.7 in 2019, that’s over 20 points higher than Ngakoue.
He’s not on the level of any of the elite edge rushers in the NFL. Every single one of them is his equal or significantly better as a pass rusher, while blowing his run defense out of the water.
Yet, if the Jets were to trade for him that would mean they are accepting they’d have to pay him what he wants. By giving up assets in a trade they’re giving all the leverage to the player, which means meeting their demands.
Should the Jets be giving up a high draft pick and mortgaging the future by significantly overpaying Ngakoue? Absolutely not, and that’s why the trade could be disastrous.
Joe Douglas has made the character a huge part of his team-building strategy. He spent nearly all of his draft picks on college captains, he signed veterans known for their leadership skills in free agency, and he traded All-Pro safety Jamal Adams.
It makes little sense that he’d actively be pursuing another team’s malcontent. Yannick Ngakoue has yet to show up to training camp and has actively taken shots at the team and their owner multiple times.
His situation is similar in a lot of ways to Jamal Adams’. That’s not the type of player that Douglas wants to add to his locker room. he’s been clear that the way to build a winner is with athleticism and the right culture. Ngakoue doesn’t fit the new culture at 1 Jets Drive.
That alone is reason enough to believe that the Jets wouldn’t be in on Ngakoue. Even if they were, it’s reasonable to believe that trading for Ngkaoue would blow up in a bad way.
They aren’t anywhere near ready to win and Ngakoue isn’t going to move the needle that much. That’s likely to lead to another malcontent situation. The Jets want nothing to do with anything that could disturb their culture.