As the Chicago Bears build the roster from the ground up, their search continues for a dynamic playmaker who can alter or halt a drive with just a few seconds of explosive athleticism.
General manager Ryan Poles waited patiently for the perfect spot to select an edge rusher in the NFL Draft, but the right name didn’t fall into the right position when it came to any of the Bears’ 10 picks — or such is the company line emanating from the front office. Chicago has been busy on the free agent market over the last couple of months but has signed only one defensive end in DeMarcus Walker, who posted a career-high seven sacks last season.
The time to act is sooner than later if the Bears hope to improve on the league-worst 20 sacks they produced as a team in 2022, as competitors are snapping up pass rushers ahead of training camp. One of the best options left on the market is Yannick Ngakoue, who Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report contended on Saturday is the best fit for Chicago’s needs on the edge.
Yannick Ngakoue Would be Bears’ Top Edge Rusher on Day 1
Ngakoue has been something of a journeyman since joining the NFL in 2016, but he has proven his ability to get to the quarterback at every one of his stops.
Over seven years in the league, Ngakoue has never tallied fewer than eight sacks in a season, per Football Reference. He earned a Pro Bowl nod with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 when he amassed 12 sacks. The defensive end tallied 9.5 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures for the Indianapolis Colts last season.
“In 2022, rookie safety Jaquan Brisker led the [Bears] with just four sacks, and Trevis Gipson’s sack total dropped from seven to three,” Moton wrote. “Ngakoue would provide an immediate boost to the defense.”
Ngakoue isn’t a perfect solution at defensive end because of the deficiencies in his game, but he brings to the table something Chicago desperately needs.
“Ngakoue isn’t a complete edge-defender, having missed 9.4 to 23.3 percent of his tackles in each of the previous five seasons,” Moton wrote. “With that said, the Bears added Andrew Billings and rookie defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens to plug holes in their 31st-ranked run defense. They can allow Ngakoue to do what he does best: get after the quarterback.”
Former Chiefs DE Frank Clark Remains Free Agent Option for Bears
Why the Bears have yet to pull the trigger on Ngakoue, or a player like him, isn’t clear. Poles has indicated the team intends to add an edge rusher, but has reiterated that the franchise isn’t in a rush to do so.
If Ngakoue doesn’t fit the bill for Matt Eberflus‘ defense in Chicago, the team could look to former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark. Clark is a three-time Pro Bowler and has been one of the most prolific sack artists in NFL postseason history, amassing a total of 13.5 playoff sacks, which ranks him third all-time.
Ngakoue is a couple of years younger than Clark and has been a more consistent sack producer in recent regular seasons, though Clark brings with him Super Bowl experience and a name that carries more weight. Either player should slot in well on the Bears’ defensive front, though the clock is ticking on getting a deal done as summer workouts draw closer.