The Jaguars may elect to give Yannick Ngakoue a new contract based on his production, but they have enough depth to cope with his holdout.
Not many NFL teams could cope with the loss of a disruptive pass rusher like Yannick Ngakoue. Unfortunately for the 24-year-old defensive lineman, the Jaguars have the talent and depth up front to pass on handing him a new contract.
Ngakoue is set to make $2.025 million this year which will serve as the final year in his rookie contract. The 2016 third-round selection has clearly outperformed his deal. The former Maryland star followed up his breakout 2017 season by notching 9.5 sacks last season. Players with his pass rushing potential typically find it easy to get paid by their respective franchises.
Ngakoue is proving to be the exception to that rule. Reports close to the player claim that negotiations between he and the Jaguars have “broken down” in recent days. As a result, he plans to hold out from all team activities in the foreseeable future. In other words, Ngakoue will not be participating with his teammates when Jacksonville’s training camp begins.
This holdout will present the Jaguars with an interesting choice. Most teams would struggle mightily to pressure the passer without a player of Ngakoue’s caliber. That isn’t necessarily true with the Jaguars. They would certainly miss Ngakoue if he doesn’t play this season, but they do have a lot of other talented players capable of picking up his slack on the defensive line.
Calais Campbell is already installed as the starter at the other defensive end spot. He’s the rare defensive end who is equally adept at rushing the passer and defending the run. Campbell certainly benefits from the attention Ngakoue attracts on the other side of the line, but he’s talented enough to produce without that benefit.
Jacksonville also spent their first round draft pick on a potential difference maker off the edge. Josh Allen was a monster while rushing the passer last year for Kentucky. It might take him a little time to adjust to life in the NFL, but he projects as a potentially elite pass rusher. Allen certainly has the talent to be an immediate starter for the Jaguars.
The presence of Allen and Campbell makes Ngakoue’s decision to hold out a pretty big bet. The Jaguars would absolutely like to keep three potential Pro Bowl edge rushers on the roster, but that might not be financially possible over the long haul. It could be that Jacksonville officials drafted Allen with the understanding that keeping Ngakoue might prove to be too expensive.
None of this means that Ngakoue won’t get paid. It just means that the Jaguars don’t have to be the franchise who gives him that bumper new contract. Their franchise has options in this situation. It’ll be interesting to see what Jacksonville elects to do with their young pass rusher.