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Free agency nears for Yannick Ngakoue

Through four NFL seasons, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks. And it’s now time for him to get paid.

Ngakoue anxiously awaits his shot at a long-term, big-money deal, after fulfilling all four years of his rookie contract. Ideally for him, he’d get that opportunity by landing on the open market. But the Jaguars surely will apply the franchise tag to one of the best pass rushers in football, forcing him to accept a one-year deal that possibly will be parlayed into a long-term contract before July 15.

Or will it? Last year, a pair of elite pass rushers were tagged then traded, with the Chiefs shipping Dee Ford to the 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick and the Chiefs then acquiring Frank Clark from the 49ers, for a first-round pick in 2019, a second-round pick in 2020, and a swap of 2019 third-rounders.

Ford signed a five-year, $85 million deal in San Francisco, and Clark signed a five-year, $104 million deal. Ngakoue may end up getting his deal not from the Jaguars or from free agency but from a deal signed after he’s traded to a new team.

However it plays out, Ngakoue is basically the defensive equivalent of Dak Prescott in the 2020 free-agency class. Like Prescott, Ngakoue may be determined to maximize his leverage by refusing to sign a long-term deal and by staying away from all football activities until just a few days before the start of the regular season like Le’Veon Bell in 2017 (or maybe, like Le’Veon Bell in 2018, Ngakoue could hold out into the season). Unlike Prescott, however, Ngakoue truly could be in play to be traded to a new team, like Ford and Clark a year ago.