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Free Agency

NY Jets should pursue Yannick Ngakoue in free agency

Allen Settle
NY Jets, Yannick Ngakoue Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
NY Jets, Yannick Ngakoue Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Jets 2021 offseason is officially underway. While major events like the 2021 NFL Draft are still on the horizon, the offseason schedule received a major boost during the February 23rd franchise tag deadline.

The Jets utilized their franchise tag to retain standout safety Marcus Maye. Many teams around the league followed suit by locking up their most coveted talents before they could enter free agency.

Interestingly, a number of standout players were allowed to enter the free-agent pool. Stars such as Kenny Golladay, Chris Carson, Hunter Henry, and Shaquill Griffin are now available to the highest bidder.

I have personally written about how the Jets should target Henry (here) and Griffin (here). However, another former Pro-Bowler would be an excellent fit in the Jets’ new defensive system — pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

Yannick Ngakoue’s talent

Ngakoue was a serious candidate to be franchise tagged by the Baltimore Ravens. He finished the 2020 season with eight sacks, 11 QB hits, four forced fumbles after splitting time between Baltimore and Minnesota.

This was just another stellar season from the standout edge rusher.

Ngakoue has managed to post at least eight sacks and four forced fumbles in each of his four seasons in the NFL. His best season, which came in 2017, saw the Maryland star record a career-high 12 sacks and six forced fumbles.

Since his debut in 2016, Ngakoue has recorded an impressive 45.5 sacks. Superstar Aaron Donald has led the league with 65.5 sacks during this span. J.J. Watt is fifth at 49.5.

Ngakoue’s 45.5 slots him in the 12th spot in the entire league since that time. He’s also just a small handful of sacks away from being much higher.

Yannick Ngakoue’s fit with the NY Jets

The next incarnation of the Jets will be led by new head coach and former San Francisco 49ers defensive guru Robert Saleh. The franchise is hopeful that his energy and experience will usher in the next great Jets defense.

However, New York is unfortunately void of the game-breaking talent that existed on San Francisco’s depth chart. Adding an established pass-rusher would make a world of difference.

The 49ers’ defensive success was predicated on producing a pass rush with the defensive front-four. This allowed the defensive backs and linebackers to focus on pass coverage, leading to an efficient overall unit.

The addition of Ngakoue, paired with former third overall pick Quinnen Willians, would give the Jets a great start at building a dangerous defensive line.

Picture Ngakoue terrorizing opposing quarterbacks in a Nick Bosa-type role. The rest of the defense will still need work, but signing a star defensive end would be a phenomenal start.

The verdict

For all the obstacles the Jets face during their drastic rebuild, there are reasons to be encouraged. New York currently owns five picks in the first three rounds of the 2021 Draft (including two in the first round). They also possess two first-rounders in 2022.

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Additionally, the franchise holds the second-highest amount of available cap space at over $68 million. Ngakoue, whose current market value is estimated at approximately $15.5 million per season, would take up a considerable amount of these funds.

This is, however, nothing new for the modern NFL landscape.

Top-tier pass rushers represent one of the league’s most important commodities. In a world where quarterbacks are posting historically high numbers each year, the ability to create pressure with four is incredibly important.

A play for Ngakoue would still leave New York with draft capital and cap space to address other needs. It also allows coach Saleh a real chance at success by investing in his specialty.

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If Saleh gives his seal of approval on Yannick Ngakoue, the Jets should make him a top priority to fill the Nick Bosa role in their defense.

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