Blog post updated Aug. 1, 2019
Imagine an elite pass rusher hitting the open market in free agency in his prime in March of 2022, weeks before his 27th birthday.
Imagine what he could command on the open market.
Since Bruce Smith, as Peter King of NBC Sports recently noted, recorded 108 sacks after the age of 30, a pass rusher just shy of his 27th birthday would be just reaching his prime.
He could probably set a new market for pass rushers.
The highest paid pass rusher currently is Khalil Mack at $23.5 million, although he is a linebacker.
Three years from now after a new CBA is in place and the league could have new TV deals, the market will certainly surpass Mack’s figure.
But by how much? Certainly several million more. Is $30 million a possibility?
Yannick Ngakoue may find out the answer to that question if the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t lock him up with a long-term deal and wind up franchising him twice.
It was no surprise Ngakoue was a no-show at the start of camp. The next question is whether he will report this week so he gets credit for the year in free agency.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars appear to be in no hurry to sign him because they can keep him off the market for three years if he plays out the final year of his contract and he is franchised twice.
But it would be difficult for them to franchise Ngakoue a third time in 2022 because the CBA calls for a player who is franchised three years in a row to get quarterback money.
By 2022, that is likely to be more than $30 million. And it would all count against a team’s cap.
So, the odds are that Ngakoue would become a free agent and possibly get the biggest defensive contract ever. Very few premium pass rushers hit free agency in their prime, so it’s difficult to know how high the bidding would go.
The only downside for Ngakoue would be that he wouldn’t get a big guarantee for three years and would be risking an injury that could hurt his bargaining power.
On the other hand, he would need a big contract now to give up the chance to be a free agent in 2022.
If Ngakoue is franchised in 2020, he would likely get a deal in the $18 million range. And if he is franchised again in 2021, he would get a 20 percent raise and make close to $22 million.
So that is $40 million and you add his $2 million salary this year, he would make $42 million the next three years, or an average of $14 million.
That means he probably wouldn’t take a five-year deal at $17 million a year now because he would be giving up on free agency in 2022 for just a $3 million raise over his average the first thee years if he is franchised twice. And at $17 million a year in 2022 and 2023, he would be way below market value by then.
Could the Jaguars reel him in an average of $20 or $21 million for five years? We probably won’t know because the Jaguars showed no interest in offering him that much when they have him for three years at $14 million a year.
So that is where things now stand in the stalled talks.
The Jaguars don’t seem concerned about losing him as a free agent in 2022 and don’t seem concerned about his contract status becoming a distraction for the team.
Or they don’t believe Ngakoue is willing to bet on himself and become another Kirk Cousins, who got a big deal with the Minnesota Vikings after being franchised twice by the Washington Redskins.
Now the question is what happens next.