Jaguars, Yannick Ngakoue heading towards franchise tag

Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to sign Yannick Ngakoue prior to free agency, but the franchise tag remains in play if the sides can’t agree.

If Yannick Ngakoue hits the free-agent market, he’ll cash in. Don’t expect him to get there.

League sources have told FanSided the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t intend to let their star defensive end out of the building. While hope remains for a long-term deal, it’s increasingly likely Jacksonville will need to use its franchise tag to retain Ngakoue.

The deadline for teams to use the franchise and transition tags is March 10 at 4 p.m. ET.

If tagged, Ngakoue would earn approximately $17.95 million (or $15.322 million on the transition tag). Teams could still offer the former Maryland star a contract, but would surrender two first-round picks to sign him away on the franchise tag if the original team doesn’t match. The transition tag mandates no return, but Jacksonville would retain the ability to match any offer.

Ngakoue, 24, played out the final year of his rookie deal with Jacksonville after contract negotiations went nowhere last offseason. In four years, Ngakoue totaled 37.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2017. Last season, the D.C. native had eight sacks in 15 games, playing through a lingering hamstring injury.

Should talks stall and either tag is applied, the situation becomes murky for the Jaguars.

Last year, general manager Dave Caldwell dealt with disgruntled cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who showed up to training camp in an armored truck with a hype man and a bullhorn, wanting to renegotiate his rookie deal. Eventually, Ramsey was traded in October to the Los Angeles Rams for a pair of first-round picks.

Would the franchise want to potentially deal with another disgruntled player?

If Ngakoue is tagged, perhaps he doesn’t show up to OTAs and minicamp, forcing a stalemate prior to the July 15 deadline for players on tags to sign a long-term deal.

Of course, Jacksonville could also tag Ngakoue before dealing him. Last year, a trio of young pass-rushers were tagged by their respective teams prior to being dealt. The Seattle Seahawks traded Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for first and second-round choices, while the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round selection.

In Houston, the Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney but waited until after the July 15 deadline. The decision hampered Houston’s ability to get market value, considering Clowney couldn’t sign a long-term deal until after the Super Bowl. Eventually, the Seahawks stole Clowney for a third-round pick.

So what could Ngakoue fetch? He’s 24, has only missed one game in four years, and has 37.5 sacks. Here’s the numbers on Ford, Clark and Clowney previous to this season:

  • Clark: 25 years old, 2 missed games, 35 sacks
  • Ford: 27 years old, 13 missed games, 30.5 sacks
  • Clowney: 25 years old, 18 missed games, 29 sacks

While Clark and Clowney are significantly better against the run compared to Ngakoue and Ford, the comparisons suggest Ngakoue could bring back a first-round pick. If the Jaguars were to get that, they’d have three first-round choices come April.

Another factor to consider is the salary cap.

Jacksonville is already over the projected $200 million figure, and Ngakoue’s number would count against the threshold even if he doesn’t sign it. Per Over The Cap, the Jaguars would be $21 million above the limit with Ngakoue’s tag included.

The good news for Caldwell? He can shave $20 million by releasing defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and another $10 million by cutting tight end Geoff Swaim and linebacker Jake Ryan.

With more than a month until the tag deadline, Ngakoue’s situation is worth watching.