The Jaguars and Yannick Ngakoue are in the middle of a sticky situation. Ngakoue is going into the last year of his rookie deal and has easily outplayed his contract as a former third-round pick. He and his agent, Ari Nissim, appear to be out to set the market at the defensive end position. But the Jaguars may not be keen on making their try-hard pass rusher the highest paid player at his position in all football.
Earlier this offseason, before Yannick Ngakoue left the team during OTAs and decided not to attend mandatory minicamp, he sounded like a guy that wasn't going to hold out. It seems likely that he thought the Jaguars would be willing to work with him on a fair contract. And why wouldn't they? Ngakoue has done everything right — on and off the field — since entering the league and is a terror coming off the edge.
But it now appears that Ngakoue and Nissim aren't anywhere close to what they believe to be a fair deal. When Ngakoue announced that he wouldn't be in attendance at mandatory minicamp, he had this to say:
"I will not be attending minicamp as my contract has not been resolved. I remain committed to Jacksonville, the fans and my teammates. My hope is to be with Jacksonville for years to come."
Ngakoue deserves a new contract. He deserves stability. He's earned it with his class leading 29.5 sacks during the first three years of his career. He's earned it by being as dedicated to his craft as anyone in professional sports.
Now it's time for the Jaguars to pony up. In all honesty, Tom Coughlin and company should have already gotten the deal done. Had the Jaguars signed Ngakoue before Frank Clark and DeMarcus Lawrence got paid by the Chiefs and Cowboys respectively, the asking price might have been a couple of million dollars lower. But the argument can and should be made that Ngakoue is better and more valuable than both Lawrence and Clark.
The Jaguars should be willing to pay north of $20 million per year for Ngakoue, who had more QB hits than any other player in the league in 2018. And they'll likely need to do just that to lock down Ngakoue on a long term deal.
The team currently has a little over $9 million in cap space for 2019. But with the way the Jaguars structure contracts, that should be more than enough to get Ngakoue extended. You see, the Jaguars are well known for being able to use a signing bonus to cover much of the first year salary on new deals, which then gets prorated over the length of the contract. For example, when the Jaguars signed Andrew Norwell last season to a contract with an average value of $13 million per year, he only counted $5 million against the cap in 2018 because of a $15 million signing bonus. That's precisely what the Jaguars should do in this situation.
And once Telvin Smith's 2019 salary comes off the books, the Jaguars will have even more room to work with. They should save just under $10 million when Smith doesn't report to training camp.
Moving into 2020, the Jaguars will also look to sign Myles Jack (please) to a long term deal that will be in the $12-15 million per year range. To do so, the Jaguars will need to get creative. A Calais Campbell restructure, and perhaps the release of some veteran players would need to occur. But don't forget the salary cap will likely increase in the range of $10 million in 2020, so the Jaguars will get some relief there.
The bottom line is the Jaguars have the money to sign Yannick Ngakoue to a market setting (or close to it) long term contract, and that's what they need to do. What type of message does it send to other players when you don't pay a young, elite, hard-working pass rusher? This just a year after extending Blake Bortles (heavy sigh)...
I understand the other side of the coin too. The Jaguars don't want to set a precedent for giving into players when they hold out, but in this situation the right move is the obvious one. Pay the man.
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