Lions Pressed to Sign Ex-Pro Bowl Edge Rusher

Dan Campbell

Getty Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions have been urged to sign former Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has played for five teams in the past four seasons. CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin proposed the Detroit Lions helping Ngakoue make it six organizations in the last half decade.

While playing NFL free agency “matchmaker,” Benjamin named the Lions the most “logical” destination for Ngakoue.

“Why not, right? 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.”

It will be difficult for an NFL team to find a better pass rushing option in free agency than Ngakoue this summer. He has recorded at least 8 sacks in all seven of his NFL seasons.

Over the past two seasons, Ngakoue recorded 19.5 sacks in 32 games with the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts.

How Yannick Ngakoue Fits With the Lions

NFL pundits have labeled defensive line, mainly defensive tackle, as the biggest remaining need for Detroit since the draft. But as Benjamin explained, the Lions adding another pass rusher shouldn’t be off the table either.

Ngakoue has been the model of consistency as a edge rusher, recording 65 sacks in the past seven seasons. He’s twice reached double-digit sacks. In 2017, he made the Pro Bowl with a career-high 12 sacks and league-leading 6 forced fumbles.

Last season, Ngakoue posted 9.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits and 1 forced fumble with the Colts.

At the beginning of the offseason, Pro Football Focus ranked Ngakoue the 62nd-best overall player and seventh-best edge rusher available in free agency.

The only edge rusher PFF ranked ahead of Ngakoue who also remains unsigned is Jadeveon Clowney.

Ngakoue began his career as a third-round pick in 2016 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After playing four seasons with the Jaguars, he split the 2020 season with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens.

Ngakoue played for the Raiders in 2021 and then the Colts in 2022.

The Cons of Lions Signing Ngakoue

As nice of an addition Ngakoue would be for Detroit’s pass rush, there’s an obvious reason the 2017 Pro Bowler remains unsigned. Ngakoue offers very little in run defense.

In fact, among edge defenders who played at least 50% of his team’s defensive snaps last season, Ngakoue was ranked in the bottom five in run defense according to the Pro Football Focus player grades.

Any team that considers targeting Ngakoue should view him as a “one-trick pony” — that trick being rushing the passer.

“Ngakoue is a pure pass-rush specialist, offering very little in run defense over his career, but his ability to get home from a wide-nine alignment is a very valuable trick to have in the bag,” wrote the PFF analysts.

The Lions were tied for 18th in the league with 39 sacks last season. So Detroit’s defense could use a pass rusher such as Ngakoue.

But the Lions were even worse in run defense last season. Detroit ended the season ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in yards yielded per carry.

Adding Ngakoue won’t help the Lions improve their biggest defensive weakness and depending on how much he plays, it could possibly make it worse.

But if the Lions could deploy Ngakoue in a rotational role, they may be able to maximize his skills as a pass rusher. If that’s possible, he’s a viable addition for the Lions defense.

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