Yannick Ngakoue clearly doesn't want to be a Jacksonville Jaguar, nor does he want to play under the $19.3 million franchise tag. He even scolded his team on Twitter on Tuesday for preventing him from "taking care of his family" and begged them "Let's move on."
So yes, teams are circling to see if the Jags have had enough and are willing to trade their 25-year-old pass-rushing star. At the moment, there's no indication that they are, but things could always change. And if it does, one thing is clear about this situation:
Trading for Ngakoue is going to cost a lot.
In fact, the cost will be so high that even though both New York teams desperately need an elite pass rusher, it's hard to argue that it would be worth it for either the Giants or the Jets.
Start with the money. The only way for Jacksonville to trade Ngakoue is for him to sign his franchise tag, which would immediately add $19.3 million to the cap of any team that acquires him. At the moment, neither team has that available. Both are estimated to have about $10-to-15 million remaining. The Jets have several players they could cut to clear enough space. For the Giants, it's more complicated because they'd have to sign Ngakoue to a long-term deal first (see below), and rescind the $16.1 million franchise tag from Leonard Williams in order to afford that.
But even if they were willing to clear the necessary cap room, the cost doesn't stop there. Ngakoue isn't going to sign the franchise tag tender and agree to a trade unless he gets a deal that makes him one of the highest-paid pass rushers in the NFL -- which he can justify since he's one of the best, young pass rushers and has had 37 ½ sacks in his first four NFL seasons.
So that contract better be big. Really, really big.
How big? Well, he reportedly turned down a short-term deal worth $19 million per season last summer -- a deal that would've earned him $50 million in the first two years. He is reportedly seeking at least $22 million per year with more than $50 million guaranteed. That would put him in the range of $110 million over five years, with more than half of that guaranteed.
Nothing about the way Giants GM Dave Gettleman and Jets GM Joe Douglas have approached free agency indicates they'd be willing to make a commitment like that to anyone.
But let's say they were. Here's where the cost could really get too high for them, because the Jaguars aren't going to give him away...
Ngakoue's only leverage is to hold out, but there are two problems with that. One is that if he doesn't sign a long-term contract with the Jaguars -- or someone -- by July 15, he has no choice but to play on the franchise tag in 2020. And the other is that if he does hold out through the summer or even into the season, will the Jaguars care? Even with him, they're closer to rebuilding than contending right now, which makes him a valuable asset whether he's playing or not.
So the Jaguars have no reason to just give Ngakoue away. They probably won't get two first-round picks -- the price of another team signing a franchise player from another team -- but they're certainly going to ask for one, plus more. It cost the Kansas City Chiefs a first-round pick and a future second-rounder to get franchised defensive end Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks last season. And Clark and Ngakoue had been pretty comparable players in their first four years.
And oh, by the way, that first round pick the Chiefs traded? It was the 29th overall pick. The Giants are picking fourth this year and the Jets are picking 11th -- far, far more valuable selections.
Two teams who seem so committed to building through the draft and not free agency seem unlikely to give up picks like that.
But, bottom line, what if they were, even after all that? What if they just believed the value of the 6-2, 246-pound edge rusher was too good to pass up? What if either team decided they just had to have Ngakoue to complete their defense, no matter what?
Here's a look at what each team would have to do:
They can't justify trading the fourth pick in the draft, so the only way it would work is if they traded down first -- possibly far down -- and accumulated a bunch of other picks before dealing away their first rounder. If they could get a future first-rounder and maybe an extra second-rounder this year which they could use to try to get back into the bottom of the first, maybe that would make sense. Maybe.
But they'd also have to rescind the franchise tag to Williams in order to afford Ngakoue. There are two problems with that, though. They'd definitely have to give Ngakoue a lucrative contract extension first, because they can't use the tag twice in the same year. And if word of the trade or contract talks leaked out, wouldn't Williams then rush to sign the tag, which would then kill any possible deal for Ngakoue? Williams is not going to want to have that tag pulled on him now that most of the free-agent money has dried up.
So it's not only expensive, it's a delicate dance and could get a bit complicated. They could do it, but there are a list of other things they'd have to do first.
Giving up the 11th pick also seems like a bit too much, and something Douglas isn't likely to do, so the Jets probably would have to trade down first, too. The problem there is their pick isn't as valuable as the Giants' pick because the top quarterbacks won't be in play. They'd have to hope someone wants to jump up to take the first receiver off the board.
The money part is far less tricky for them. They could easily cut guard Brian Winters (a $7.2 million savings), or linebacker Avery Williamson ($6.5 million), or even give them pay cuts. And they certainly have the cap space available in future seasons for a lucrative long-term deal. It's just a matter of whether they're willing to spend it, and spend the necessary draft capital as well.