The Detroit Lions have been a popular choice as a potential fit for 5-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. But more than one analyst has also labeled the Lions a possible landing spot for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
On June 2, CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan named the Lions as a place where Ngakoue could be playing next season.
“The Lions could look to add a pass rusher opposite of Aidan Hutchinson and Detroit is an offseason favorite to take the leap and become a true contender this coming year, so that could check Ngakoue’s box,” wrote Sullivan.
Ngakoue is on an historic run to begin his NFL career. Last season, he became just the fifth player in NFL history to register at least 8 sacks in each of his first seven seasons.
The other four players to accomplish that feat were Reggie White, Aaron Donald, Derrick Thomas and DeMarcus Ware.
Why Yannick Ngakoue Fits With the Lions
Sullivan was the second CBS analyst to connect Ngakoue with the Lions in the past two weeks. CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin called for Detroit to sign the 28-year-old defensive end while playing NFL free agent “matchmaker.”
“Detroit has been busy upgrading every level of its defense this offseason, but they could still use a pure pass rusher opposite Aidan Hutchinson, especially as they eye a legit playoff push,” Benjamin wrote. “Ngakoue’s book has been written as a one-trick pony off the edge, but as a one-year flyer a la C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the big-play upside is there.”
The Lions finished the 2022 season tied for 18th with 39 sacks. Of those 39 sacks, 21.5 of them came from two rookies — Aiden Hutchinson and James Houston.
Entering their first full season together (Houston began 2022 on the practice squad), big things are expected from Hutchinson and Houston this fall. But the Lions adding Ngakoue would take some pressure off the two second-year pass rushers. Ngakoue would also provide experience and depth for Detroit’s defensive edge.
In seven NFL seasons, Ngakoue has recorded 65 sacks and 21 forced fumbles. He also has posted 202 combined tackles, including 65 tackles for loss and 135 quarterback hits.
Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, Ngakoue had 9.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 1 forced fumble.
Why Ngakoue Doesn’t Fit for the Lions
Ngakoue has sexy sack numbers, but there’s a reason he’s still a free agent.
The Pro Football Focus player grades ranked Ngakoue as bottom five run defender among edge rushers who played at least 50% of his team’s defensive snaps in 2022. For that reason, he’s been identified as a one-trick pony.
As much as the Lions could use a boost in their pass rush, the team’s run defense was even worse than its pass rush last season. Detroit ended the 2022 season ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards allowed per carry.
If the Lions are going to spend any of their remaining $23.7 million in cap space, it’s best use would be on a defender that would improve the team’s biggest weakness on defense. Ngakoue doesn’t fit that need.
The Lions might not be the best fit from Ngakoue’s perspective either.
On Sirius XM NFL radio on June 2, the defensive end mentioned that he’s “ready for a stable home” and prefers his next stop being on “a multi-year deal.” That would be a breathe of fresh air for Ngakoue, who has played for five teams over the past four seasons.
While the Lions are expected to be a contender, which is Ngakoue’s other requirement, Sullivan doubted whether general manager Brad Holmes would be willing to offer Ngakoue a multi-year contract.
“Whether or not the Lions — who have the fifth-most cap space — want to give Ngakoue a deal that allows him to put down roots, however, is something that could halt this potential partnership,” wrote Sullivan.