JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- All we know for sure is that Yannick Ngakoue is skipping the Jacksonville Jaguars’ mandatory minicamp this week because he is unhappy with his contract and wants a big-money extension.
There also is a chance that Ngakoue won't report to training camp late next month -- or will skip parts of it -- or that he will not play a snap without a new contract. If he’s willing to risk a fine of $88,650 for not showing up this week, then all of that is almost certainly on the table.
Ngakoue wants to be paid for what he is: one of the best young pass-rushers in the NFL. Because of the huge deals that DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark signed this offseason, Ngakoue’s price tag likely will be around $100 million.
Is he worth that much?
That’s the question executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell are wrestling. Ngakoue has been everything they had hoped for when they drafted him in the third round in 2016. He has 29.5 sacks -- which already ranks third in franchise history -- and 10 forced fumbles in three seasons.
Since 2016, Ngakoue has more sacks than Lawrence (26), who received a guaranteed $65 million from the Dallas Cowboys. And more than Dee Ford (25), who signed a deal with the San Francisco 49ers that guarantees him $45 million. And more than Trey Flowers (21), who signed a deal with the Detroit Lions that guarantees him $56 million.
Danielle Hunter, whom Minnesota gave a five-year extension worth $72 million with $40 million guaranteed last June, has 34 sacks from 2016 to 2018. Clark has 32. They are among the 11 defensive ends whose average annual salary is $14 million or higher in 2019, and Ngakoue has more sacks than six of those players over the past three seasons.
Ngakoue is due to make $2.02 million in 2019.
Per Next Gen stats, Ngakoue’s pass-rush win rate last season was 22%, which is just above the league average for defensive ends/outside linebackers (20%). That was better than Hunter and Flowers, and it was the same as Clark. Lawrence, Ford and Clowney had a better pass rush win rate.
Ngakoue’s quarterback pressure rate, which is the total number of pressures divided by the total pass-rush snaps, was better than all those players (12.9%) last season.
So, maybe Ngakoue is worth $100 million --or at least more than the $50.125 million guaranteed that the Jaguars gave quarterback Nick Foles, which was the highest in franchise history.
The problem for the Jaguars right now is they don’t have a lot of salary-cap space available this year (approximately $6 million once the rookies are all signed) or next year ($5.65 million), but the team will be getting an additional $9.75 million in space if linebacker Telvin Smith sits out the 2019 season. The Jaguars also are expected to move on from defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Calais Campbell in 2020, which would save them $35 million in cap space.
There’s also the possibility of reworking some current contracts, specifically that of cornerback A.J. Bouye. The team can convert salary to a signing bonus, which would allow them to spread the amount over the length of the contract and create some cap space.
Plus, contracts can be structured to have a minimal cap figure early. For example, Foles' contract is for four years and $91 million, but his cap figure in 2019 is only $12 million.
There’s also the franchise tag, which the Jaguars could use if they don’t want to sign Ngakoue to a long-term extension. That number in 2019 is $17.128 million, but it will be higher in 2020 because of the Lawrence and Clark deals. The Jaguars can’t use the tag until after the 2019 season, though, and Ngakoue might be unwilling to play this season if he doesn’t get a new deal.
This is not a situation the Jaguars have had to worry about in a long time, because they haven’t had any of their draft picks develop into a superstar worthy of a megadeal.
Not only are the Jaguars facing that with Ngakoue, they’ve also got to deal with cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who already has talked about wanting a new long-term contract.
Plus, linebacker Myles Jack is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Ramsey and Jack can wait, though. Coughlin and Caldwell first have to figure out if Ngakoue is worth $100 million.