Browns Advised to Add $26 Million Free Agent Sack Specialist

Yannick Ngakoue

Getty Veteran NFL defensive end Yannick Ngakoue with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.

The Cleveland Browns look to be set on the edge of the defense, but appearances can be deceiving.

Myles Garrett is a two-time All-Pro who has produced at least 16 sacks in each of the previous two seasons. The Browns traded for 2022 Pro-Bowler Za’Darius Smith to start on the other side of the line after adding free agent Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in March, who produced a career-high five sacks for the Houston Texans last year.

However, the position gets thin after that, and both Smith and Ogbonnia present concerns. Smith tallied just 1.5 sacks over the Minnesota Vikings‘ final 10 games of 2022 and will play the upcoming campaign at 31 years old. Meanwhile, Ogbonnia produced just 4.5 sacks across his first three NFL campaigns and is entering only his second season since transitioning from linebacker to the defensive line.

Enter Yannick Ngakoue, who Bleacher Report dubbed the second-best remaining free agent and top available edge rusher as of July 30. Sayre Bedinger of FanSided’s Dawg Pound Daily took it one step further, publishing an article on the same day that listed Ngakoue among the five unexpected free agents Cleveland might still find a way to ink ahead of the regular season.

Yannick Ngakoue Has Been Among NFL’s Best at Sacking QBs Over Last 7 Seasons

Yannick Price Tag Bears

GettyDefensive end Yannick Ngakoue #91, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, celebrates sacking quarterback Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Steelers during an NFL game in November 2022. 

The argument for Ngakoue to play in orange and brown next season is fairly simple — he’s an elite-level pass rusher, the Browns are looking to win now, and the team has the money to get a deal done.

Bedinger laid out his case for the move as follows:

If you can rush the passer, you should be able to get a spot on someone’s roster in the NFL. It’s one of the most valuable traits in the game, and very few active NFL players have been better at getting to the QB than Yannick Ngakoue.

Playing the [edge] position in today’s NFL is not all about sacks, but if you can rack up sacks, pressures, QB hits and cause turnovers occasionally, you have value. Even if Ngakoue is a one-trick type of player, that one trick is really, really good.

Ngakoue has produced at least eight sacks in all seven of his professional seasons since entering the league in 2016 and has amassed 65 total sacks during his NFL tenure. Just six players have tallied more over that span, per StatMuse, one of whom would be Ngakoue’s teammate if he lands in Cleveland (Garret has 74.5 total sacks since 2017).

Yannick Ngakoue Seeking Long-Term NFL Home on Next Deal

Yannick Contender Bears2

GettyDefensive end Yannick Ngakoue, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Ngakoue isn’t still a free agent because he has been overly picky about his next destination, though the defensive end has expressed his desire to play for a contender this season and to do so on a multiyear contract.

Over his seven NFL campaigns, Ngakoue has suited up for the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was a Pro Bowler in 2017, both the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens in 2020, and the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts in the two seasons since.

The 28-year-old Ngakoue played out a two-year, $26 million contract with the Colts in 2022 and can probably be procured for a similar price on a two- or three-year deal going forward. The Browns had more than $16.8 million in available salary cap space as of Tuesday.

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