Yannick Ngakoue trade grades: Vikings build top-tier pass rush duo; Jaguars retool for future

The Yannick Ngakoue saga has, finally, reached its end.

The Jaguars shipped the 25-year-old defensive end and pass rush extraordinaire to the Vikings early Sunday morning for a 2021 second-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2020, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ngakoue had made his displeasure of playing for Jacksonville known over the last year, starting with his contract demands and then fighting publicly with ownership.

Now, the months-long epic is at its end. Here’s how both sides made out:

Vikings: B+

It’s hard to knock any team trading for a top-of-the-line pass rusher in today’s NFL: those guys really just don’t hit the trade block often, and when they do, they go for big-ticket prices (see: Mack, Khalil).

Ngakoue is 25 and has 37 1/2 sacks on his Pro Football Reference page, even if that comes with a history of questionable run defense (he improved on this in 2019, for what its worth). There is a question of signability long-term for a few reasons: Minnesota is up against the cap and can’t extend Ngakoue until next year. While there’s a fair amount of moves they can make to alleviate the situation and make some space, it seems like a never-ending cycle of cap issues to navigate for Minnesota.

A second and what could amount to a third-round pick (if the Vikings win the Super Bowl) is a big price to pay for a guy who may or may not leave and you may or may not sign, but if you’re the Vikings and you see an opening to win a Super Bowl in 2020, then there shouldn’t be much room for debate to improve the defensive line now, especially after letting Everson Griffin walk in free agency. 

Pairing Ngakoue and Danielle Hunter on the other side with an already loaded defense is a smart move to make for Minnesota.

Jaguars: B

It wasn’t long ago when the Jaguars had a defensive group that featured Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith and Ngakoue, who were in the AFC championship game and were pretty darn close to unseating the Patriots in the AFC championship game.

That era is all but over and the Jags are all but rebuilding, and a few more picks to work within the 2021 NFL Draft — giving them 10 total and four in the first two rounds — handing them a very good springboard for the future.

But in an offseason where Jamal Adams — a safety, and a safety who doesn’t intercept the football — was traded for two first-round picks, for Ngakoue to be traded for a second-round pick and a conditional fifth seems like a light return on its surface. The situations are a bit incongruous, though: Adams is under team control through 2021, while Ngakoue can hit free agency after this season. The uncertainty of the future cap also plays into the return.

Pass rushers of Ngakoue’s caliber don’t get traded often, and when they do, it’s for a high price. Ngakoue’s situation is different, though, given his contract demands, impending free agency and uncertainty of future cap given the coronavirus’ effect. (The NFL did agree not to let it drop under $175 million next season.)

It’s a good enough return for a player who had no interest in playing for you anymore, had publicly called out a team co-owner and just wasn’t in future plans. It does feel like it could be a bit more, but clearly both sides were done with one another. 

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