Did The Vikings Make the Right Decision by Trading Away Yannick Ngakoue?

Jan 9, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) hands the ball off to running back Austin Ekeler (30) as Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) looks on during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2020 season, the Vikings decided to trade for Yannick Ngakoue. The star edge rusher wasn’t happy in Jacksonville, and Minnesota needed another player to get after the QB. Danielle Hunter was out with a “tweak” in his neck, an injury that ended up costing him his season. Originally, the hope was to partner Ngakoue and Hunter. Instead, Hunter didn’t play and Ngakoue was sent to Baltimore after only six weeks.

Did Minnesota make the right decision by trading away the former Jacksonville edge rusher?

A quick glance at his stats leaves one impressed. He’s 27 and has already played six seasons. He had 5 sacks for the Vikings in only 6 games. He has never dipped below 8 sacks in a single season. He snagged 12 sacks in 2017 and put up 10 last year. It’s also notable that some of his other pass rush statistics are impressive. Take a look:

What’s more concerning, though, is his missed tackle percentage. 2021 was easily his best result when it comes to missed tackles, but he still missed 12.5%. Other years have featured numbers in the high teens or low twenties. In Minnesota, he missed 25% of his tackles, partly explaining the decision to move on from him. For context, Danielle Hunter missed 10% of his tackles in 2018, but he got that number down to 2.8% in 2019 and then 5% last year. Moreover, Ngakoue ranked as the 104th edge rusher out of 108 on PFF, mostly due to his abysmal 28.6 run defense score (the worst in the NFL).

After only six games, Rick Spielman’s Vikings decided to send Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore. They received a third and a fifth in the trade. We now know what happened to those picks (with my thanks to PFR). If we wanted to keep things simple, we could say that the draft picks turned into Patrick Jones II and then Akayleb Evans (though, admittedly, the Evans one is a touch more complicated since the original Baltimore pick was involved in some trading).

Meanwhile, Yannick Ngakoue has found himself on several different teams, showing that the Vikings decision to move on wasn’t an anomaly. After less than a year in Baltimore, Ngakoue went to Las Vegas. The Raiders, though, didn’t keep him. He was traded to the Colts in exchange for Rock Ya-Sin. In other words, he has been involved in three trades in only six seasons. Obviously, Ngakoue brings some value to teams; if he didn’t, no one would bring him in in a trade. However, that can also be seen as a two-way street. Despite the great sack numbers, Ngakoue hasn’t been kept by any of his four teams for very long, so he’ll enter his seventh season on a fifth team.

Over the Cap indicates that Yannick Ngakoue carries a $13 million cap hit in 2022, a number that would be too rich for Minnesota. Trading him in 2020 after so little time in Minnesota was peculiar, so it’s hard not to be at least somewhat critical of Spielman’s decision. Looking back, it would have been more productive to simply avoid bringing him to Minnesota. Regardless, the focus now shifts to Jones and Evans, two defenders who have the chance to help Minnesota win both now and in the future.

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