Wednesday brought erroneous reports, unfounded rumors, and Twitter shenanigans regarding an imminent trade of Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. While it could still happen, it hasn’t happened yet — and there are very important reasons why it won’t be easy to accomplish.
First, and most importantly, Ngakoue can’t be signed to a long-term deal if/when traded. That opportunity came and went with the passing of July 15; anyone who trades for Ngakoue gets him under a one-year deal, with no opportunity to sign him to a long-term deal until the regular season ends.
Second, and related to the first point, Ngakoue will have tremendous leverage once the regular season ends. With a franchise tender of $17.8 million for 2020, Ngakoue’s franchise tag for 2021 would spike to $21.36 million — in a year that could feature a salary cap as low as $175 million. So whoever gives up value for Ngakoue in trade and pays him $17.8 million now will pay him $21.36 million in 2021 or give him a long-term deal with $21.36 million for 2021 as the starting point or watch him walk away.
These two factors will make it much harder for the Jaguars to get value in trade. Last year, the Texans got only a third-round pick (and a couple of throw-in players) for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. To make that happen, Houston had to pay $7 million of his $15.97 million in order to get the deal done.
So the Jaguars either will have to pay part of Ngakoue’s compensation in order to get solid trade value, or they’ll have to take less trade value while the new team pays $17.8 million.
Alternatively, the Jaguars could rescind the franchise tender, given that Ngakoue hasn’t signed it. It’s hard to imagine anyone paying Ngakoue $17.8 million for 2020 if he ends up on the market three weeks before the start of the regular season. For Jacksonville’s perspective, they’d get no compensatory draft pick in 2021 if/when he signs elsewhere. In this crazy, unprecedented season, however, there’s real value in creating $17.8 million in cash and cap space.
There’s one final option: Another team could still sign Ngakoue to an offer sheet, including a long-term contract. If the Jaguars don’t match, they’d get two first-round picks. While theoretically possible, it’s highly unlikely. (Also, the offer-sheet strategy can’t be manipulated to set up a trade for something less than two first-round picks. If an offer sheet is made, the Jaguars either match and keep him or don’t and take two first-round picks.)
However it all plays out, it won’t be easy for the Jaguars to trade Ngakoue, unless they are willing to kick in some of the compensation or unless they’re willing to take whatever they can get from someone who would potentially have him on the roster for only one season.
Absent a trade, Ngakoue needs to decide whether he wants more than $1 million per week to be a Jaguar in 2020. Given that he made $2 million for all of 2019, it would be tough to walk away from even one game check.