JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars never got the first-round draft pick they sought for Yannick Ngakoue.
Still, the Minnesota Vikings didn't acquire a young, productive pass rusher without some sacrifice.
Jacksonville dealt Ngakoue to Minnesota on Sunday for a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2022, a trade that was formally executed with the league on Monday.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said the team “feels good" with the compensation they received in return for a 25-year-old defensive end with 37 1/2 sacks and 14 forced fumbles in four seasons.
“When you’re a coach and you’re sitting there, it’s almost like you feel like you’re in the middle,” Marrone said. “You want what’s best for the player. You want what’s best for the team. In this situation — I haven’t spoken to Yann — but obviously if he’s happy, then I’m happy for him.”
Ngakoue agreed to rework his 2020 salary to get out of Jacksonville, according to a person familiar with the trade. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
He made it clear on several occasions this year he wanted out of Jacksonville, even sparring with the team owner’s son on Twitter, and he left millions on the table to make it happen. Ngakoue turned down an offer that would have guaranteed him $17.8 million from Jacksonville this season. He will now make $12 million in 2020.
Ngakoue, a speedy strip-sack specialist, made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and was an alternate the past two seasons. He clearly outplayed his $3.84 million rookie contract. He made $2.025 million in 2019 — far less than other top playmakers at his position.
Ngakoue, a third-round draft pick out of Maryland in 2016, has four straight seasons with at least eight sacks. The only players in the NFL with longer active streaks are Aaron Donald (six), Von Miller (six), Chandler Jones (five) and Khalil Mack (five).
Ngakoue said the day after the 2019 season ended that he’s “not going to play for pennies.” He had been seeking around $22 million a year to remain in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars never considered him a complete or elite defensive end worthy of that much annually. The Jaguars have been steadily jettisoning many of their best players from the 2017 team that reached the AFC championship game, with Ngakoue and running back Leonard Fournette the latest to go.
Jacksonville also selected Ngakoue’s replacement, Josh Allen from Kentucky, with the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft and added pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson this year. Allen had 44 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
In Minnesota, the 6-foot-2, 246-pound Ngakoue — whose name is pronounced yah-NEEK in-GAH-kway — will present another proven pass rusher in his prime opposite star Danielle Hunter. Ngakoue's work ethic and intensity have always been among the most respected in Jacksonville’s locker room, and Hunter has held the same reverence in Minnesota.
Ngakoue also should ease the loss of four-time Pro Bowler Everson Griffen, who signed with Dallas earlier this month. Ifeadi Odenigbo had been in line to take over for Griffen after a breakout performance in 2019, but now he will give the Vikings rotational depth at arguably the most important defensive spot.
Odenigbo tweeted simply, “Fools gold,” after the trade agreement was struck on Sunday, perhaps a sign of disappointment with a likely reduction to his expected role, but defensive coordinator Andre Patterson dismissed the notion that he'd have to help keep Odenigbo's spirits up.
“Nobody’s given anything. Nobody’s given that they’re going to walk on the field and be a starter. Nobody’s given that just because you’ve been a starter, you’re going to stay a starter. You earn your right," Patterson said. “That’s every guy on this football team, not just him.”
Patterson, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and two rookie backups, wide receiver K.J. Osborn and defensive tackle James Lynch, were the only Vikings made available by the team to the media on video conference calls on Monday. The trade was finalized shortly after the availability with Patterson, who deferred specific comments about Ngakoue until the deal was consummated.
To fit Ngakoue in, the Vikings were working on clearing sufficient space under their tight salary cap, putting left tackle Riley Reiff's status on the team in jeopardy. Reiff has begun the fourth season on a five-year contract worth more than $58 million, carrying a $13.2 million cap hit.
Campbell reported from Minneapolis.
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