Rams Urged to Pursue Ex-$26 Million Pass Rush Specialist


Getty Bobby Wagner and Aaron Donald celebrate a stop on November 13, 2022 in Inglewood. Could both get pass rush help in free agency?

Now that Aaron Donald has helped squash his retirement rumblings, the next step for the Los Angeles Rams is to add extra pass rush help.

“A.D.” has an assist with his teammate since 2020 Leonard Floyd, especially after leading the team in sacks in 2022. But the 6-foot-6 edge rusher is facing a critical offseason where a restructured contract from his $64 million may need to be worked to remain with the team. An extra pass rusher is still a high need for the Rams and Pro Football Focus urged this name on Wednesday, January 18 who was once on a $26 million deal in 2021: Yannick Ngakoue.

‘Pure Pass Rush Specialist’ Who Could Break Out Next to ‘A.D’

Ngakoue, a 2017 Pro Bowler and former Jacksonville Jaguars teammate of Jalen Ramsey, is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the 2023 period come March. He had a $5 million base salary per Spotrac from the Indianapolis Colts. But before Indy, he produced 10 sacks with the Raiders while on his two-year, $26 million contract.

And throughout his seven seasons in the league, the 6-foot-2, 246-pounder has never fallen below eight sacks in a single season — hence why Brad Spielberger of PFF believes Ngakoue is the guy who can reignite the pressure on the Rams’ defense alongside Donald and Floyd.

“The Rams simply could not generate pressure off the edge in 2022, with the unit’s 13.6% pressure percentage ranking 30th. Ngakoue is a pure pass-rush specialist who offers little in run defense, but that might be just what this defense needs, as Leonard Floyd is one of the best run-defending edge players in the NFL,” Spielberger wrote. “Ngakoue has produced at least eight sacks in every season of his seven-year NFL career, and while he earned a career-low 56.9 pass-rush grade with a 10.8% pressure percentage in 2022 — 52nd out of 98 edge defenders with at least 200 pass-rush snaps — he could see favorable matchups playing alongside Aaron Donald.

“His underlying metrics indicate potential sack regression, but the Rams could find ways to creatively deploy him and keep those sacks coming,” Spielberger continued.

Ngakoue, who entered the league running a 4.75 time in the 40-yard dash, isn’t just a defender who attempts to beat blockers off speed. He showed in November 2022 with the Colts that he can transition to power even facing blockers with a near 70-pound advantage:

But in every other place including the Raiders, Ngakoue gave tackles fits with his explosion after the snap.

Big Payday? Or Play for a Competitor?

Ngakoue has been one of the more underrated and consistent pass rushers in the league. But he’s soon to play for his fifth team since 2020. Spielberger writes that Ngakoue is in a position where he can either demand a heftier payday or play for a chance at the playoffs for the first time since his 12-sack Pro Bowl season of 2017.

“Ngakoue could be looking for a big payday coming off a 9.5 sack season in 2022 after logging 10 sacks in 2021, and that would probably price him out of Los Angeles, but he’s also made it pretty clear he’d like to play for a competitor, something he hasn’t really done since his sophomore season in 2017 on an absolutely loaded Jaguars defense,” Spielberger said. “Of course, the Rams had a disastrous 2022 season that was far from contention, but with head coach Sean McVay returning once more and Donald seemingly still in the fold, they could bounce back quickly.”

The 27-year-old could be the new Dante Fowler if brought in to the “Rams House.” And being in a room with Donald next to him, Floyd opposite of him and perhaps Raheem Morris back at defensive coordinator could be what Ngakoue needs to deliver his third season of double digit sacks. But in return, reamplify a missing element on the Rams — the pass rush.

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