The Cleveland Browns defense has had its struggles so far in training camp, a trade for Jacksonville Jaguars Yannick Ngakoue could’ve changed some of that.
Pick your spot on the defense and you’d be right to say “they need to improve that group”. Defensive tackles, defensive ends, inside and outside linebackers, safeties, and corners. They’re all wrecked. Be it by injury, poor play, or the Cleveland Browns odd desire to barely spend any money on the defense in the offseason, besides one-and-done contracts to players who more than likely won’t earn another contract in Cleveland, let alone the NFL. So when the cash-strapped Minnesota Vikings made a trade for the Jacksonville Jaguars Yannick Ngakoue, it further highlights GM Andrew Berry’s lack of concern for a unit that is set up to be torched in 2020.
Ngakoue, 25, has a Pro Bowl to his name and already 37.5 sacks in his four-year career. No Browns player has had as many in that amount of time. Sure, Myles Garrett has had 30 through three, and Adrian Clayborn has 36.5 and Olivier Vernon has 54.5 sacks, but they’ve played nine and eight years in the NFL to get their stats. Ngakoue is a much better pass rusher than both Vernon and Clayborn. Sure, Ngakoue isn’t the run stopper you’d hope for a modern NFL player but neither is Garrett.
The price for Ngakoue was staggeringly low too, a second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-round draft pick that could be as high as a third-round pick. According to ESPN, the picks change from a fifth to a fourth if Ngakoue goes to the Pro Bowl and rises to a third if the Vikings go to the SuperBowl.
The Vikings only have $12.9 million in cap space and Ngakoue has already agreed to restructure his deal to help out the Vikings. There is no argument about how “The Browns need to safe their cap space for guys like Nick Chubb”. Firstly, because contracts like Chubb’s is two years from being up and that’s without the fifth-year option and secondly the team can always make cap room when contracts come up. If you think Odell Beckham is here in two or three years, there’s beachfront property in Arizona that you can buy.
Berry has made it abundantly clear that the defense is not a priority. Before the string of injuries turned the Browns defense into a Wisconsin cheese farm (because it’s full of holes), the team didn’t invest any money on improving or upgrading positions, instead of signing bargain deals with guys with “something to prove”.
Ngakoue is another example of Berry’s hubris with regards to the defense. Unless this unit steps up in a way that’s impossible to fathom, the team is going to struggle mightily and no one should be surprised.