Since holding out during the early portion of Jaguars' training camp, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has been largely quiet on he and his team's pursuit of a new contract. There's been plenty of "reading between the lines" of his social media posts, but none have been directed specifically towards Jacksonville and his status there.
That is, until Monday morning.
Ngakoue, who made a career-high $2.025 million in 2019, remains without a contract extension from the Jaguars, who reportedly did offer the Pro Bowler a deal worth $19 million per year this off-season. That offer came with Tom Coughlin at the negotiating table; the now former Executive Vice President was let-go by the Jaguars on December 18.
The Jaguars' 2016 third-round draft selection, Ngakoue never missed a game until Week Two of this season, when he was battling a hamstring injury. He recovered from that injury and went on to play in 75% of the team's defensive snaps in 2019. In 15 games, Ngakoue recorded 41 tackles, 15 quarterback hits, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. That included a game-changing, forced fumble in Sunday's win over the Colts, which Calais Campbell scooped up and scored for a touchdown. Ngakoue was actually initially knocked down on the play, but bounced back up and chased down Colts' quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
It's a play that head coach Doug Marrone said defines who Ngakoue is.
"You got a player that is going into a year where there is a little bit of unknown. A lot of times, in my experience, I’ve had players that it’s affected them, or it’s affected the way they acted around their teammates or affected the way they practice or even affected the way they play," Marrone said following the 38-20 win. "The one thing about Yannick, you talk about a professional through it all, he’s 100 mph in practice. He’s not doing things on the field to get sacks and get numbers. He’s doing what he wants to do."
“He’s been awesome. He’s always brought the juice everyday at practice," rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew echoed. "How he plays out there is just how he practices every day. He’s awesome and couldn’t ask more from a teammate. As a player, he’s one of the best in the game too so hopefully we can keep him around because he’s a super special dude and great player.”
The Jaguars do have Campbell under contract for 2020, but the 33-year old Pro Bowler will command a $17.5 million cap number. The Jaguars will also have defensive ends Dawuane Smoot and Josh Allen still playing under their rookie contracts; Smoot posted a career-high six sacks this year, while Allen led all rookies with 10.5.
Case in point: "Sacksonville" will take a hit if it loses Ngakoue.
"You can’t let that guy leave, guys like that don't grow on trees," Campbell said of Ngakoue, his teammate the last three seasons. "He plays with so much passion and he’s just scratching the surface. He plays with so much tenacity and he can change the game. I mean when he stripped the ball away and caused the fumble it gave me the opportunity to pick up the ball and score a touchdown for the team. I know it’s going to cost a lot to keep him, but I would not let him go.”