Raiders Urged to Reunite With Former $26 Million Pro Bowler

Raiders potential signee Yannick Ngakoue

Getty Raiders potential signee Yannick Ngakoue

Getting to the quarterback has been, for the better part of a decade, a tricky subject for the Raiders. But with Maxx Crosby having established himself as one of the best edge rushers in the NFL and Malcolm Koonce showing progress opposite him, that might be turning around. In that context, it could be an opportunity to bring back an old friend—former Raiders end Yannick Ngakoue.

That’s the view from The 33rd Team, where analyst Marcus Mosher determined that the Raiders would be the best fit for Ngakoue as he looks for a team while still lingering in free agency. Ngakoue played for the Bears last season.

Ngakoue signed a two-year, $26 million contract with the Raiders back in 2021 and, despite having 10 sacks that year, he was traded to Indianapolis. Perhaps a return is in order, with a lesser role.

Wrote Mosher: “One team that could use another veteran pass rusher is the Las Vegas Raiders, who know Ngakoue well. During their time together in 2021, Ngakoue started all 17 games opposite Maxx Crosby and led the team in sacks with 10. While the Raiders wouldn’t be signing Ngakoue to start, he would give them a pass-rush specialist to play behind Crosby and Malcolm Koonce.”

Raiders Pass Rush Much Improved

The Raiders pass rush does, for the first time in a decade, appear to be headed in the right direction. In all, the team tallied 46 sacks last season, 18 of which came in the final five games of the year, an average of 3.6 per game.

The Raiders ranked tied for 14th in sacks in 2023, which marked the first time they were in the top half of the league in that category since 2015. The Raiders were 27th in sacks, with 30, in 2022 and 21st (35) in 2021. They were also dead last in sacks twice in that span.

It’s been a problem.

Unlike his last time around in silver-and-black, Ngakoue would not be relied upon to carry the Raiders’ pass rush, but rather just chip in, mostly on third downs. At age 30, that’s a comfortable position for him.

For now, he’d be happy just to get a contract. The Bears have rebuilt their defensive front, and Ngakoue, who had been a Pro Bowler in his second season, in Jacksonville, is looking for what could be his sixth team in five years.

Yannick Ngakoue Could Add Needed Depth

The good news for the Raiders is that they probably can make do with what they have on the defensive line, as long as Koonce and Crosby remain healthy. The Raiders got immediately better by signing interior lineman Christian Wilkins, and the hope is that Tyree Wilson can handle an interior spot, too. There is not much depth behind the starters, though.

The Raiders are encouraged by what they’ve seen from Koonce, who should come back better both mentally and physically in 2024.

“Two weeks ago we were doing drills during the phase two process, and I was in the back of the D-line group, and I just saw him coaching up one of the younger players,” defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said of Koonce. “And I mean, coaching them up with authority, ‘It’s like this, do that.’

“Once you see that, that’s showing command of his craft. And when you hear that, just again, I tell you guys all the time as a teacher who happens to teach football, I mean I was just proud. I was just giddy. I don’t know if a defensive coordinator should use the term giddy, but I was giddy. I mean just to see him do that.”

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