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With only two weeks remaining before the NFL regular season gets underway, the Jacksonville Jaguars were still taking calls in an attempt to get as much as they could for disgruntled defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. When it was all said and done, they reportedly opted to trade the Pro Bowler to the Minnesota Vikings for what appears to be a modest haul in return, but one that could get more attractive if Ngakoue hits the ground running in his new digs this season. 

Given the fact Ngakoue refused to sign his franchise tag and report to training camp, there were only two options remaining for the Jaguars in the situation: They could trade him and get something out of the split, or stand firm and lose him in 2021 free agency with zero compensation. The decision to officially wave goodbye is a no-brainer, and it happens with fortuitous timing for the Vikings, who earlier this month didn’t see their wish granted — namely to have Everson Griffen return. 

By adding Ngakoue, Minnesota is now projected to win the NFC North, with its season win total buoying from an initial 9.1 to 9.3, per CBS Sports data analyst Stephen Oh. The Vikings also jumped nearly three percentage points in winning the division, from 44.8 percent to 47.5 percent. That’s precisely what the Vikings want to hear, and it’s one reason (of several) they walked away having bested a downtrodden and desperate Jaguars front office in this deal. 

Vikings: A+

There were concerns about how the Vikings would address the loss of Everson Griffen, but there aren’t any more. 

Griffen, who had become a cornerstone piece of the pass rush in Minnesota, parted ways with the Vikings this offseason, but there was some hope within the organization he’d be open to returning. Instead, he’s now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, and the move to grab Ngakoue instantly and presumably patches that hole in the ship. A Pro Bowler in his own right, Ngakoue lands in Minnesota with 37.5 career sacks in four seasons, and it’s not simply that the Vikings were able to pry him out of the fist of Jaguars general manager David Caldwell, but they did it without giving up a kitchen sink. They sent a 2021 second-round pick and a conditional 2022 fifth-round pick to Jacksonville, yes, but the Jaguars would’ve preferred a better haul than the one they finally accepted.

The Vikings are also not paying full price for Ngakoue’s services, considering he is now forced to play under the franchise tag after having refused to sign it ahead of the NFL deadline on July 15. That means he’s scheduled to make $17.8 million in 2020, only he won’t, after reportedly accepting a restructured one-year deal that could pay him only around $13.5 million

And while the conditional fifth-round pick could move to a third-rounder in 2022, that would require both Ngakoue landing another Pro Bowl nod and the Vikings winning the Super Bowl this season, otherwise landing at a fourth-rounder if only the former happens; if they’re unable to secure Ngakoue on a longterm deal, they’d be staring at a likely third-round compensatory pick for losing him in free agency to a big contract elsewhere. 

A fix today that puts Ngakoue in tandem with a player like Danielle Hunter, with roughly a $4 million discount, and protection later in the event things don’t contractually go as planned in 2021? 

That’s an A+ deal for Minnesota. 

Jaguars: B

This wasn’t a fleece job by the Vikings, but it’s not what the Jaguars would’ve preferred. 

Ideally, they would’ve been able to resolve things with Ngakoue and keep one of the best pass rushers in the building, but that solution died long ago. That left the Jaguars to begin accepting trade offers for the Pro Bowl defensive end, and they didn’t start low, considering what the other team would be getting in return. Try as they did, however, no one was willing to bend over backwards in a situation where Ngakoue was willing to sit out the entire season and return to free agency in 2021 — versus taking another snap for an organization he so loathes. Kudos to the Jaguars for at least being able to negotiate the deal they did with the Vikings, even if it does lean in Minnesota’s favor. 

The problem is, it is what it is unless Ngakoue dominates for the Vikings, and more so if the two win the Super Bowl in their first year together — as mentioned above. Otherwise, it’ll stay just a second-round pick next year and a fifth-rounder the year after, and considering Day 3 picks are usually of the flyer variety, the Jaguars arguably walk away with only one impact pick here. That said, it’s also common knowledge draft picks are crapshoots, which is why Jacksonville began negotiating a contract extension with a proven and up-and-coming talent in Ngakoue in early 2019 — before the now-fired Tom Coughlin reportedly broke off talks.

All told, this isn’t an easy one to grade for the Jaguars. 

One one front, they’re guaranteed a Day 2 pick and a Day 3 grab in exchange for a player they’d never again see in their uniform anyway, which deserves some applause. But to see them forced to send away yet another disgruntled top defensive player, and in the same offseason wherein they traded away Calais Campbell, is completely cringeworthy. They land just above average in this trade grade because I’m going to presume Ngakoue makes the Pro Bowl this season, which at least gives the Jaguars a second- and a fourth-round pick. They’re not in the same draft though, and that’s a demerit in and of itself, but hey; they could end up with this trade having landed them two Day 2 picks — if the Vikings take over the world in 2020.

Not great, overall, but not too shabby either, when you consider they didn’t have a ton of leverage.

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