It’s no secret that the Seattle Seahawks have been in search of pass rush since the end of the 2019 season with Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, Quinton Jefferson and Jarran Reed all set to be free agents in just a couple of weeks. That has led to rampant speculation that the Hawks could be one of the teams in pursuit of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue of the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, according to reports this morning, Ngakoue will not be allowed to reach free agency.
Jacksonville Jaguars will use their franchise tag on pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, per league sources. The tag will allow them to try to trade him if that’s what they decide or are forced to do.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2020
So, with Ngakoue set to be franchise tagged, that’s one less pass rusher who will hit the market. However, even with the tag being applied to Ngakoue, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be returning to Jacksonville for the 2020 season.
The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville. Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I’m thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere. -91— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) March 2, 2020
So, it appears as unlikely he will be playing in Jacksonville going forward, but won’t be hitting free agency. As for what the Jaguars are looking for in return in a trade is likely similar to what Seattle received from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 when they sent Frank Clark and a third round pick to KC for a 2019 first and a 2020 second. Ngakoue’s age and production through his first four seasons comp out very similarly to Clark.
It has been argued by some that a second round pick could get it done, as was seen with the Dee Ford trade from Kansas City to the San Francisco 49ers last offseason. However, Ford is not a great comp, as was three years older at the time of the trade and had been less productive through the first five years of his career than Ngakoue has been through the first four years of his career.
In any case, that means the trade compensation likely involves multiple high draft picks, though whether that’s a first and a second, a first and a third or something else remains to be seen. In addition, beyond the draft picks, any team making the trade would need to give Ngakoue a new contract, and according to reports he is looking for a deal that comes in around five year and $110M. That is a price tag that is both longer and higher in dollar value than Pete Carroll and John Schneider have traditionally handed out, and would seem to make Seattle an unlikely landing spot for Ngakoue.
That said, if the Jaguars are too greedy and hold out for more in return for too long, that could easily lead to a situation like was seen with Clowney last summer. Once the franchise tag is officially applied, the Jags will have until July 15 to work out a long term deal or Ngakoue will be precluded from signing a long term deal until after the conclusion of the 2020 season. Letting that deadline pass without signing a long term deal greatly reduces what the team can ask for in return in a trade, and is what resulted in the Houston Texans being unable to demand more for the services of Clowney at the time of his trade than the third round pick and two role players that Seattle sent in the exchange.
So, even though free agency is still two weeks away, things could get interesting this week if NFL teams are proactive in going after acquiring a top tier pass rusher who won’t celebrate his 25th birthday until later this month.