What if I told you that the Ravens could trade for a star pass rusher? What if I told you that the pass rusher has recorded 29.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and 70 QB hits over the last three seasons.
No, not Khalil Mack. Good guess, though. Mack has recorded 34 sacks, 39 tackles for loss and 66 QB hits over that time.
That player is Yannick Ngakoue. In Jacksonville, he hasn’t received as much national attention as he deserves. He has one of the best pass rushing moves in football, a truly lethal cross body chop.
Yannick Ngakoue: Not only the cross-chop king of the NFL (D-Law close 2nd), but I think he's the most underrated pass-rusher in the NFL right now. Already has an effective club & club-swim as counters. Only 23-years old.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 22, 2018
(Lined up over the LT unless otherwise noted) pic.twitter.com/I4Xf10ZSlc
Ngakoue is a super freak athletically. He is able to bend with the best of them, and also brings a ton of violence to the point of attack.
Yannick Ngakoue is one of my favorite players in the league. Not only does he already have an elite cross-chop as his primary move, but he also plays with a frenetic energy and can contort his body in crazy ways. Good examples of the latter two points here: pic.twitter.com/QuDSKIMxJ3— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) July 11, 2018
The best part? He just turned 24.
The Jags edge wants a new contract. He’s currently holding out of training camp in Jacksonville in an attempt to get one. The market value for Ngakoue’s production is certainly worth more than the $2 million he will make in 2019.
The Ravens have room to give it to him the contract he wants. If the Jaguars are willing to take a 2020 first round pick and perhaps a 2021 fourth round pick the trigger needs to be pulled.
Before you jump the gun on the “No way picks are too valuable!” train, lets look at what first round pass rushers have done over the last three seasons:
In 2016, Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner came off the board in the first seven picks. Both are excellent, but the Ravens probably won’t be picking in the top ten next season. The Bills took Shaq Lawson, who has had ten sacks over that time. His fifth year option was declined. Leonard Floyd was also drafted, and has been solid, but not nearly as productive as Ngakoue.
The 2017 draft had quite a few pass rushers come off the board early. Myles Garrett was the number one pick (Ravens won’t be there). Solomon Thomas has disappointed so far in San Francisco. Hassan Reddick and Derek Barnett came off the board consecutively with the 13th and 14th picks. Each has flashed, especially Barnett, who I’m was, and still am, extremely high on. Neither have exactly set the world on fire yet, though.
Johnathan Allen, Takkarist McKinley, Charles Harris, Taco Charlton and T.J. Watt have been a mixed bag. Allen and Watt have played at a high level, McKinley, Charlton and Harris haven’t shown enough production to warrant their selection yet.
2018 saw only two pass rushers selected in Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport. Chubb was a top five pick and Davenport is a bit of a project.
Overall, the first round rushers have been 50/50 and I would categorize as hit or miss. It’s still too early to write any of them off entirely, but Ngakoue’s value is undeniably better as a proven pass rusher.
Ngakoue could have a contract structured to pay him decently this year. The Ravens have around $11 million in cap space laying around. They could toss $7-9 million his way, then backload a four or five year deal.
The Ravens wouldn’t have signed Earl Thomas if they didn’t aim to make a Super Bowl run over the next three years. To do so, they must be able to rush the passer. Ngakoue is exactly what this defense needs and has lacked since Elvis Dumervil departed.
According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens sent four or less pass rushers 53% of the time. That was the lowest rate in the NFL. Their pressure rate on such plays was 32.5% which ranked ninth in the NFL last season. Conversely, the Ravens led the NFL in blitzing frequency, sending five or more rushers on 39% of pass defenses. They created pressure on 41.9% of their blitzes, which ranked 20th in the NFL
The Ravens generated the seventh highest rate of pressure overall, which is a testament to Wink Martindale. Clearly, Wink didn’t trust the four man rush to get home. Also, Martindale didn’t typically send four down lineman after the QB. Pressure came from everywhere. There might be four rushers, but it wasn’t guaranteed all four were defensive lineman. Wink used a bevy of disguises, looks and sent players from all over the field. Wink also drew up stunts, which accounted for nearly half of the Ravens sack total.
It’s also why Za’Darius Smith isn’t worth the contract the Packers gave him.
Ngakoue is worth it. Per PFF, he racked up 193 pressures over his first three season. Against elite quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson, getting home with four rushers is imperative. As great as the secondary is, you simply can’t blitz every down. Cerebral quarterbacks will pick you apart.
Pairing Ngakoue with Matthew Judon, Tim Williams and Willie Henry would be leaps and bounds more productive than any four-man pass rush the Ravens have had in recent memory. If the Ravens are serious about bringing another Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore, Ngakoue is the right move. Look at what Khalil Mack did for Chicago.
If there’s one position worth paying top dollar, it’s pass rushers. Look at what Mack, Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Ryan Kerrigan and company have done after receiving lucrative contracts. Left tackle and pass rushers are the best position to invest heavily in. If these players don’t deserve large contracts, who does?
The time is now, Eric DeCosta. A 24 year-old healthy proven pass rusher could turn this defense from great into historic. Yannick Ngakoue is certainly worth a first round pick and $18-21 million per year.
**Update, Ngakoue has reportedly turned down a short term deal with $18 million in 2019 and $50 million over two years. A long term deal seems to be his prerogative.
Would you be happy if you woke up to find out Ngakoue was joining the Ravens in training camp tomorrow?
Trade for Yannick?
This poll is closed
Yes! Do it ASAP!
No, no player is worth it.