Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue brought his 11-day holdout to an end on Sunday and reported to training camp without the new contract he had been looking for.
He told reporters in Jacksonville:
“At the end of the day, [the Jaguars] had a chance to sign me for a long-term deal, but it didn’t get done,” Ngakoue said after Sunday’s practice. “It is what it is. I’m just here like I said. I love football, love my teammates, and I’m here to play games.
“... At the end of the day, I know my value, I know my worth. That’s all I can say. Doesn’t matter about anybody else knowing my value. I showed each and every year.”
Ngakoue sees his value around that of some of the other edge rushers that have made big money this offseason, such as DeMarcus Lawrence ($21 million AAV), Dee Ford ($17 million), and Trey Flowers ($18 million), and the numbers seem to back him up. Over the last three seasons, Ngakoue has racked up more sacks than Flowers, Ford, Lawrence, Joey Bosa and Jadeveon Clowney. Only Lawrence has had more pressures in the last two.
“I view myself as unique,” Ngakoue said. “I don’t even compare myself to no other pass-rusher. No disrespect to those guys. Those are my guys — Dee Ford, all them guys, Frank [Clark]. I’m my own player. I feel like I bring a different aspect to the game. Stats show.
One would think that the Jaguars would be aware of the kind of talent currently on their roster, and that there would be some concerted effort to pay him his worth, but it seems like the franchise was more than content with sticking to their guns and leaving money on the table. Now, the franchise is in a position where if Ngakoue has a breakout year—or, hell, even remains consistent—they might have to fork over even more dough than they would have this summer, or risk losing him to another team willing to pay him what he wants. At the same time, they’re also in a spot where if the 24-year-old gets hurt—or his numbers dip significantly—they’ll be able to cynically turn around and say “told ya so” as they lowball their rising star once again.
This isn’t anything out of the ordinary in this league. Teams face these kind of decisions all the time. Some realize that keeping star talent is important for pursuing a championship, and even just keeping fans interested in the team. Others believe that the only real risk to playing hardball like this is that they could potentially lose a great player to another team’s payroll, and that the reward of being competitive doesn’t necessarily outweigh that. Unfortunately for Ngakoue, he seems to find himself employed by the latter.