MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings added a top end pass rusher to play opposite Danielle Hunter on Monday, announcing they’ve acquired Yannick Ngakoue from the Jacksonville Jaguars for two future draft choices.
In return, the Vikings send the Jaguars their 2021 second round pick, and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Ngakoue will occupy the spot vacated by Everson Griffen, who spent 10 seasons with the Vikings but joined the Dallas Cowboys in the off-season.
Ngakoue spent his first four NFL seasons in Jacksonville, being named to the Pro Bowl in 2017. In that 2017 Pro Bowl season, he had a career-high 12 sacks and led the NFL with six forced fumbles.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer spoke generally on Sunday about the need to acquire talent along the defensive line, as the trade hadn’t yet become official.
“We’ve been looking for another pass rusher for quite a while. I think that’s important when you have a young secondary. If it goes through, I think that adds to what we can do,” Zimmer said Sunday.
Ngakoue, in 63 career games and 62 starts, has 122 tackles, 37.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and two career defensive touchdowns. His 37.5 sacks are the most by a Jaguars player through 63 career games in franchise history and ranks second all-time in the team’s history behind Tony Brackens’ 55.0 career sacks.
In his last four seasons, including the playoffs, Ngakoue has 15 forced fumbles and 88 quarterback hits. Ngakoue has four straight seasons with at least eight sacks, trailing only Aaron Donald, Von Miller Chandler Jones and Khalil Mack.
He’ll join forces with Hunter on the defensive line, who last year became the fastest player in NFL history to amass at least 50 career sacks in his first five seasons. Hunter currently has 54.5 sacks. At 6-2, 246 pounds, Ngakoue has a similar build to Hunter.
“Obviously it helps us out. Teams have to find a way to handle two guys off the edge. That helps us out tremendously,’ Vikings Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said Monday before the trade became official. “You’re always looking for as many pass rushers as you can get. You can never have too many guys that can rush the passer, and you can never have too many guys that can cover receivers. That’s something that you’re always looking for. Whenever you get a chance to add another guy to the mix, that helps you out.
Patterson said the Vikings’ front office, before working out the trade to bring Ngakoue to Minnesota, had him watch tape, do an evaluation and come back with an opinion to see if he’d be a good fit for Zimmer and the defense.
The Vikings will lean on their defensive line more this season, with a particularly young group in the secondary. They have experience at safety in Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, but are young in the defensive backfield with Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler.
Disrupting the quarterback, starting up front, will be a key for success for the defense this season.
“It’s big time. If you can get the quarterback off the spot, it helps the secondary out so much. It’s more important to get pressure on the quarterback than sack the quarterback. Pressure leads to winning games defensively way more than sacking the quarterback,” Patterson said.
It’s not yet known when Ngakoue will have his first practice with the Vikings. He has to travel to Minnesota, and clear COVID-19 protocols.