The Cleveland Browns have been active in the past few days with adding players, although those have all been depth signings in the wake of the opt-out deadline for the season that took three guards off the roster.
But there might one big-name player that the Browns could still pursue in defensive end Yannick Ngakoue of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Browns have been linked on and off to Ngakoue over the past few months as Ngakoue remains in a stalemate with the Jaguars. Ngakoue has still not reported to training camp and has not signed the non-exclusive franchise tag tender the Jaguars placed on him after the two sides could not agree on a new deal.
Jacksonville reportedly approached Ngakoue in the summer of 2019 with a contract extension that would have paid him up to $19 million annually, according to ESPN’s Michael DiRocco. Ngakoue believed he was worth more and played last season for just a bit more than $2 million.
During the offseason, Ngakoue has been very public about not wanting to stay with the Jaguars and has been pushing the team to trade him. He took it to a new level on Monday when he decided to drop his agent, which could signal a renewed push to get out of town.
This will be the third agent for Ngakoue, who is due $17.788 million on the one-year franchise tender, if he signs it in Jacksonville or elsewhere. https://t.co/JmCLQq4156— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 10, 2020
Jacksonville general manager Dave Caldwell did not sound very confident when asked about Ngakoue on Tuesday, according to NFL Network’s Kevin Patra:
“You’d have to talk to (Yannick). I’m very cautious of speaking for him. He and I have been in contact the last couple days, but I think that is for him to discuss. He’s played his contract out. He has the right to do what’s best for him and his family. So, I’m going to defer any of his future questions to him, and try to keep our conversations between he and I.”
If the Jaguars decide to move on from Ngakoue, would the Browns still be interested?
Pairing Ngakoue, who had eight sacks and four forced fumbles last season and has 38.5 sacks in his career, with defensive end Myles Garrett would give the Browns a dynamic set of young starters at one of the game’s most important positions. It would also give them an enviable situation on the second unit with veterans Olivier Vernon and Adrian Clayborn.
There were reports earlier this summer that Ngakoue would be willing to play for the franchise tender figure of $17.7 million if he is traded while working on a deal with his new team. Cleveland has the cap space accommodate Ngakoue while also keeping Vernon and his $11 million salary on the roster for the upcoming season. Vernon comes off the books after this year, so that salary could help fund Ngakoue’s deal in future years.
What it would cost the Browns in a trade is the big unknown. In July, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Jaguars had turned down several offers, including one that involved an unnamed “Pro Bowl player.” That was a month ago, however, and if the Jaguars have come to the decision that Ngakoue is not coming back, the parameters of what becomes an acceptable offer would certainly change.
The #Jaguars have received multiple offers for DE Yannick Ngakoue – including one involving a Pro Bowl player who didn’t fit their system – but not enough value to deal a player of his caliber, per sources. Other teams have been told he’d play on $17.788M tender. Jags in no rush.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 15, 2020
Trading two first-round selections, which the Seattle Seahawks did for safety Jamal Adams, might be too high of a cost, but sending a package that includes their No. 1 pick in next year’s draft might be worth it considering what Ngakoue would bring to the team for the next several years. General manager Andrew Berry could also toss in defensive end Chad Thomas to give the Jaguars a player to fill Ngakoue’s old roster spot.
The idea of the Browns acquiring Ngakoue is likely one of those fantasy ideas that help fill the time. But as head coach Kevin Stefanski said last week, the team is interested in acquiring good players and Ngakoue certainly fits that criteria, so it may be worth keeping an eye on his situation in Jacksonville.