Colts Bolster Pass Rush Acquiring Pro Bowl Defensive End in Rare NFL Trade

Chris Ballard

Getty The Indianapolis Colts added a former Pro Bowl defensive end to their roster through a trade.

The Indianapolis Colts have yet to add any new players in free agency this offseason. But the Colts acquired an impactful defensive end through a trade just as the 2022-23 NFL year began on March 16.

In a rare player-for-player swap, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reports the Colts traded cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to the Las Vegas Raiders for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. No draft picks were included in the deal.

Turning 27 years old in April, Ngakoue has posted at least 8.0 sacks in each of his six NFL seasons. Last year with the Raiders, Ngakoue recorded 10.0 sacks and 23 quarterback hits.

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Colts Building Dominant Defensive Front

Initial reaction from NFL writer Tyler Sullivan of CBS Sports was that both the Colts and Raiders won the trade. Sullivan gave Indianapolis a B+ for the deal.

“The former third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft will only be 27 by the start of next season, so there is plenty of room for him to possibly jump to an even higher level of play,” Sullivan wrote. “His age also jives nicely with [DeForest] Buckner, Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, and Kwity Paye for Indy to construct a front that they can grow with for the foreseeable future.”

The team grades at Pro Football Focus ranked the Colts with the 18th-best pass rush last season. Other more traditional statistics suggest Indianapolis wasn’t that good at pressuring the quarterback. Indianapolis was tied for 25th in sacks, 27th in sack percentage and 23rd in quarterback hits.

The Colts were also just 29th in tackles for loss. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner led the team with both 7.0 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Ngakoue should immediately improve the Indianapolis pass rush. Among defensive ends with at least 800 snaps last year, PFF ranked Ngakoue 18th in pressuring the pocket.

Replacement Needed for Rock Ya-Sin

The biggest issue with player-for-player trades is while filling one hole on the roster, a general manager creates another. Coming to Indianapolis as a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Ya-Sin was a solid contributor in the Colts secondary for three seasons.

Last year, he posted eight pass defenses and 31 combined tackles in 13 games. He started 29 games in three seasons, including eight in 2021.

In addition to trading Ya-Sin, veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes is a free agent. The Colts could lose two of their top three cornerbacks from last season.

The good news is the Colts have top cornerback Kenny Moore, who played in more than 97% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2021, signed for two more seasons. Rhodes and Ya-Sin lined up for roughly 58% and 54% of Indianapolis’ defensive snaps, respectively.

So with the Ngakoue-Ya-Sin trade, the Colts are improving their pass rush but must now address the team’s cornerback depth.

Despite re-signing tight end Mo Ali-Cox, offensive tackle Matt Pryor and linebacker Zaire Franklin to begin free agency, the Colts have the cap space to sign a couple secondary players. Spotrac reports Indianapolis possesses the most cap space in the NFL with $44.45 million to spend the rest of this offseason.

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