Raiders free agency grades: Ngakoue provides monster steal

Yannick Ngakoue

Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden took the 'L' earlier this month when they reportedly made a bunch of salary cap-shedding transactions, essentially admitting their mistakes and cutting the losses from their first round of big-money moves with the Raiders.

But it looks like they’ll also open the free agency period with a massive 'W' after reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $26 million contract with Yannick Ngakoue, one of the top pass rushers on the market. The deal can’t officially be announced until the NFL league year starts Wednesday.

Not only does Ngakoue fill one of the team’s biggest needs, but he reunites with Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and comes at a reasonable price tag for a 25-year-old with his track record of production.

Former Raiders wide receiver and current free agent Nelson Agholor also reportedly agreed to a two-year, $26 million deal with the New England Patriots on Monday.

Would you rather have a No. 2 receiver or a No. 1 edge rusher? The answer is clear.

Raiders fans have to be happy with that swap in an offseason that’s already been marked by major upheaval.

Tyrell Williams, Lamarcus Joyner, Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson will all be reportedly released, while hulking tackle Trent Brown and his massive contract were reportedly shipped to the New England Patriots. These are players who were once lauded by Gruden in his defense of the franchise’s decision to trade away Khalil Mack.


About that.

The Raiders have had a gaping hole at pass-rusher in the three seasons without Mack, who has been a perennial Pro Bowl invitee. Nothing against Maxx Crosby, who has put together some decent seasons, but Ngakoue provides the team’s first major sack threat since Mack’s departure.

According to ESPN’s Next Gen Stats, Ngakoue’s 254 quarterback pressures since 2016 are the second-most in the NFL behind Aaron Donald (346), putting him just ahead of Mack (250). He’s one of four players since 1982 to record at least eight sacks in each of his first five seasons, while his 18 forced fumbles in that span are second … only to Mack (20).

As you can see, Ngakoue and Mack have had comparable production over the years.

With his compact, 6-foot-2, 245-pound build, Ngakoue is a bulky and explosive edge rusher. He bullied Raiders tackle Kolton Miller and tight end Darren Waller on his way to a couple sacks of Derek Carr in 2019, so Las Vegas has seen his athleticism first-hand.

Bradley was the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach in 2016 when they drafted Ngakoue and he racked up eight sacks and four forced fumbles as a rookie. You have to figure the Raiders' new defensive coordinator has been a longtime believer in Ngakoue’s abilities dating back to his college days at Maryland, and the familiarity can’t hurt.

Then, consider that the Raiders only made a two-year commitment to Ngakoue, who could emerge as the team’s top player on defense next season, without breaking the bank. 

Mayock and Gruden checked off all the boxes with this move.

Grade: A