The Jaguars are already . When they open mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, they’ll also be without edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, whose absence from the team can be best described as indefinite as he seeks a new contract.
On Monday, Ngakoue announced that he’s skipping minicamp, which runs from Tuesday-Thursday, amid a contract dispute with the team.
“I will not be attending minicamp as my contract has not been resolved,” Ngakoue said in a statement, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “I remain committed to Jacksonville, the fans and my teammates. My hope is to be with Jacksonville for years to come.”
Drafted 69th overall in 2016, Ngakoue has cemented his status as one of the best young edge rushers in football. Though he fell short of lofty expectations in 2018, over the past three seasons he’s notched 29.5 sacks for an average of 9.8 per season. He’s been the most productive pass rusher of the 2016 draft class, which includes the likes of Joey Bosa and Chris Jones.
Given the fact that he was selected in the third round, it should come as no surprise to hear that he’s been underpaid on his rookie deal, which is set to expire after the upcoming season. His four-year rookie deal has paid him an average of salary of $870,147.
Among all players, his 29.5 sacks since 2016 ranks 11th. Just as one example, Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who has totaled 28 sacks in that same span, has an average annual salary of $15.5 million. The Cowboys just give DeMarcus Lawrence a contract . All of this is just a long-winded way of saying that Ngakoue is underpaid. His extension will be pricey given his age (24) and production.
The Jaguars can’t really afford to let him go, but it is worth noting that they are a team that is going to be forced to start giving raises to many of their young players. Like Ngakoue, linebacker Myles Jack is entering the final year of his deal. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s contract expires after the 2020 season. Assuming Telvin Smith returns to the team, he’ll need a new deal within the next couple years. The Jaguars might not be able to afford all of their young players.
That’s really what made their decision to sign quarterback Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal this offseason so puzzling. At No. 7 in the draft order, the Jaguars were in a position to take a quarterback. Dwayne Haskins would’ve fallen to them. As teams like the Rams, Bears, and Eagles have demonstrated over the last couple years, the best way to build a team is to do it with a quarterback on a rookie contract, because it allows the team to commit financial resources to other positions. The Jaguars were in a position to do that. Instead, they gave an inconsistent veteran quarterback a big contract, which could make it more difficult for them to retain some of their key players who don’t play quarterback.
Obviously, this isn’t the time for anyone to panic. It’s only June. And practices in June don’t matter nearly as much as training camp and the preseason. There’s still time for the team to work something out with the player.
If the Jaguars are serious about making their way back to the playoffs, they’ll need Ngakoue.