The Giants need a pass-rusher and “desperately’’ is not too strong a characterization of this exigency.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman anticipates all the top-tier edge rushers, other than Jadeveon Clowney, will be hit with the franchise tag and that prediction gained traction Monday when reports surfaced the Jaguars will put the tag on Yannick Ngakoue, who at 24 years old has already amassed 37.5 career sacks. This development, however, does not mean Ngakoue is unavailable. Quite the contrary.
Ngakoue took to Twitter to immediately respond, posting “The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville. Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I’m thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere.’’
This makes it clear Ngakoue has no intention of signing the franchise tag — which would pay him about $19.3 million in 2020 — and wants to force a trade to a team that will give him the long-term deal he was seeking when he eschewed offseason workouts last year. This is a sound strategy. Last year, Frank Clark was tagged by the Seahawks and ended up getting dealt to the Chiefs. Last year, Dee Ford was tagged by the Chiefs and ended up getting traded to the 49ers. Balking works.
How does this involve the Giants in any way, shape or form? Well, getting sacks in 2020 is a huge concern, considering their top player in 2019, Markus Golden (10 sacks) is about to become an unrestricted free agent. Even with Golden’s contribution, the Giants were only 22nd in the NFL in sacks with 36 and after Golden, their highest sackers were Lorenzo Carter and rookie Oshane Ximines with 4.5 apiece.
At 6-foot-2 and 246 pounds, Ngakoue is a modern-day edge threat. He has put up at least eight sacks in all four of his NFL seasons and also has 14 forced fumbles, in addition to three fumble recoveries and one touchdown return.
“I think you have to use what you have available to you,’’ first-year head coach Joe Judge said of upgrading the Giants’ pass rush. “Everybody really wants an elite guy. I think that’s a true statement. No one’s going to turn down a good football player. But you have to find ways, if you don’t have necessarily that one elite guy, of getting production out of maybe two to three other players that complement each other.’’
Swinging a trade with the Jaguars will be extremely costly and, even if it gets done, there is the not-so-small matter of carving out tons of money to appease a player who reportedly wants $22 million a year.
To obtain Clark, the Chiefs had to give up a 2019 first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick and a swap of third-round picks. The Chiefs then signed Clark to a five-year contract worth $105.5 million. In his four years in Seattle, Clark had 35 sacks, not as many as Ngakoue had in his four years in Jacksonville. So, the Giants likely would have to give up as much, or more, to obtain Ngakoue and then pay him as much, or more, than Clark. Neither option is very appealing to a team that is far from one player away from contending.
The 49ers got Ford from the Chiefs for a 2020 second-round pick and then signed him to a five-year deal worth $87.5 million. Ford had 30.5 sacks in five years in Kansas City. Ngakoue has more trade value than Ford and will also command more money.
The Giants have the salary cap space to swing a sign-and-trade, but would they even consider giving up the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft?
The Jaguars are hemorrhaging talent and last week at the NFL Combine, general manager Dave Caldwell said he wanted to keep Ngakoue, a 2016 third-round pick out of Maryland who out-performed his draft status.
“We want him here and we’re going to try and get him here and keep him here one way or another,’’ Caldwell said.
The Jaguars have until March 12 to officially tag Ngakoue before he hits the open market March 18. The Giants could sure use the player but there does not seem to be a logical pathway to get him.