Yesterday, the Las Vegas Raiders signed free agent pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to a two-year deal. Before free agency officially kicks off, the team looks to shore up a void that continued to plague their team. Since the Khalil Mack trade, the team struggled to generate any semblance of a consistent pass rush. Now, with Ngakoue, the organization looks toward 2021 as the beginning of the renaissance.
Drafted in the third of the 2016 NFL Draft, the former Maryland product spent the first four years in Jacksonville, before heading to Minnesota. That stay didn’t last long as the Vikings shipped him to Baltimore. On the field, Ngakoue generates explosion from a lightning first step. Additionally, the ability to bend the corner, dipping his shoulder under the reach of tackles remains a vital asset to his game. He will hot the quarterback. During his 78 game career, the newest member of the Raiders tallied 45 sacks and 96 hits on the quarterback. He thrives during passing situations.
In a surprisingly efficient deal, the Raiders landed Ngakoue with a two-year, 26-million dollar deal. Now, where the bit of craftiness sets in is the structure of the deal. All of the money is guaranteed. As a result, no cap manipulation needs to occur. The Raiders paid a pass rusher a fair market wage for two years. The brevity of the deal feels perfect. Ngakoue enters his prime, set to cash in again while still in his prime. The definition of a win-win. While Gruden and Mayock struggled to cobble together in the previous three seasons, the Ngakoue signing appears rather smart.
To the chagrin of many, but not to a fantastic level, Ngakoue nullifies the need for a Round 1 EDGE. The Raiders can begin to focus on fixing their offensive line and moving forward, Granted, they may dip into the edge rusher pool later in the draft, but they look content with this lineup.
What About Maxx?
Ngakoue’s arrival actually helps Maxx Crosby. The Raiders could slide Crosby into a situational [pass rusher role. In turn, that saves wear and tear, allowing Crosby to focus on getting to the quarterback. Fewer snaps allow Crosby to remain fresher during the game, placing tackles at a distinct disadvantage during games.
For the first time in what seems like years, the Las Vegas Raiders made a positive, big-name free agency step. If Yannick Ngakoue succeeds in Vegas, the Raiders could transform their atrocious defense. The Raiders will face an even-deeper AFC. Pressuring the quarterback must be a priority, never an option.