Bears Projected to Add Pro Bowl Sack Machine Before 2023 Camp

Yannick Bears PFF Landing Spot MAIN

Getty Bears head coach Matt Eberflus.

The buzz about Yannick Ngakoue finding his next home with the Chicago Bears is only getting louder after the 2023 NFL draft.

The Bears are expected to pursue another veteran edge rusher on the free agent market in the next few months after coming away from the 2023 draft without a new defensive end for their roster. They signed veterans DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green during the pre-draft phases of free agency, but there is still a need for an accomplished pass rusher.

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger wrote that the 28-year-old Ngakoue could be the answer for the Bears, going as far as listing Chicago as his top landing spot.

“The Chicago Bears made several free-agent additions on the edge that should be solid against the run on early downs but don’t project to offer much juice to get after opposing quarterbacks,” Spielberger wrote in his May 2 article about the top remaining free agents on the market. “Ngakoue does just that, and perhaps now Chicago should reach out to let him pin his ears back and hunt quarterbacks on a young defense.”

Yannick Ngakoue Has 65 Sacks Over 7 Seasons in NFL

Yannick Bears PFF Landing Spot

GettyYannick Ngakoue could be one of the top free agents targets for the Bears after the 2023 NFL draft.

Ngakoue is an ideal weapon for a Bears defense that finished with the fewest sacks (20) in the league last season. The former Pro Bowler has finished with no fewer than eight sacks in each of his seven seasons in the league, including in 2020 when he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings during final roster cuts and then dealt again to the Baltimore Ravens ahead of the trade deadline. Over the past two seasons in a 4-3 base defensive scheme, he has generated a combined 19.5 sacks (9.5 in 2022) and 106 pressures.

One of the concerns with Ngakoue is his overall pass-rush win rate, which was just 11% in 2022, according to PFF’s metrics. He had multiple games where he notched more than one sack for the Colts defense, but then he also had games where he vanished into the background, such as Week 13’s blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys — where the Colts lost 54-19 and Ngakoue finished with one pressure and zero tackles.

Still, Spielberger recognizes Ngakoue’s consistent production, while hard to reconcile with his win rate, can be an asset in the hands of a talent-short team such as Chicago.

“Ngakoue’s 2022 production makes us wary once you look at his underlying metrics, with his 9.5 sacks this past season well above the expectation of a player with his pass-rush win rate and pressure rate,” Spielberger wrote about Ngakoue. “That being said, he’s registered at least eight sacks in every season of his seven-year career and was a more menacing pass rusher on a per-snap basis from 2017 to 2021.”

Ryan Poles Opened Door for Free Agent DE Addition

Whether Ngakoue is the right fit for the Bears remains to be seen, but general manager Ryan Poles has at least suggested the team is exploring the possibility of adding an edge rusher before training camp.

“You want to fix everything immediately but it’s got to work the right way. The right players got to be there that fit our scheme. They want to be here. So, we can’t fix everything at a high level in one swoop,” Poles said following the draft when asked about potentially adding another veteran at defensive end. “Camp’s a long ways away. We’ll stay on our toes and if something presents itself, we’ll be able to do that. We’ll be able to do it financially as well.”

The Bears have roughly $35 million available in cap space, a number that will go down once they sign all 10 of their draft picks to contracts but not so much that it will keep them from being able to make one or two more aggressive moves, should they choose. Spotrac projects Ngakoue’s market value to be about $14.8 million per year, but his last deal was worth $26 million over two years, so the Bears would likely be able to sign him for less — especially after he went unsigned during the first waves of free agency.

Other notable veteran edge rushers on the market include: Leonard Floyd, Frank Clark, Jadeveon Clowney, Robert Quinn, Melvin Ingram and Justin Houston.

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