The Bears reached an agreement with free agent Yannick Ngakoue, who instantly becomes their most proven edge rusher and should boost a defense that was last in the NFL with only 20 sacks in 2022. NFL Insider Adam Schefter was the first to report the transaction.
The top available defensive free agent, DE Yannick Ngakoue, is signing a one-year, $10.5 million deal, including $10 million guaranteed with the Chicago Bears.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed the deal Thursday night.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 4, 2023
Yannick Ngakoue 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Uf51rv405N
— Jason McKie (Blue Check) (@Jmack37) August 4, 2023
The Bears got a total of 6.5 sacks from their defensive ends in 2022. Ngakoue had 9.5 by himself for the Colts.
GM Ryan Poles has hinted that defensive end help was coming as soon as the draft ended back in May. The wait to ink the seven-year veteran may have been worth it. Ngakoue has 65 career sacks and has registered at least eight in every season since he entered the NFL as a third-round pick by the Jaguars in 2016.
The Bears finalized the deal to add the 28-year-old Ngakoue on Thursday night, signing him to a one-year contract worth $10.5 million. He was the most proven edge rusher on the market and by waiting himself, it might have helped Ngakoue financially. The Bills signed 2016 Bears first-round pick Leonard Floyd to a one-year contract in June with a base value of $7 million. After that, the Broncos signed Frank Clark to a one-year deal with a base salary of $5.51 million.
The Bears will likely use Ngakoue as a designated pass rusher, meaning he would play mostly in sub packages. That could result in him getting 70% of the defensive snaps or more. The 2017 Pro Bowler joins a room that has DeMarcus Walker, Trevis Gipson, Dominique Robinson, and Rasheem Green, among others, at defensive end. Chicago’s line looks much better, at least on paper, than the unit that finished the 2022 season among the league’s worst. Andrew Billings and Justin Jones are the starting tackles. Rookies Zacch Pickens and Gervon Dexter Sr. will serve as backups. Another rookie, Travis Bell, will likely go to the practice squad.
How good is Ngakoue?
He’s just the fifth player in NFL history to record eight or more sacks in each of his first seven seasons. The other four are Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, and Aaron Donald, who currently plays for the Rams. Safety Jaquan Brisker paced the Bears with four sacks last season. Poles addressed defensive tackle in the draft but failed to add an impact edge rusher until tonight.
Ngakoue is an excellent pass rusher who uses elite leverage to take advantage of offensive tackles. He also moves well laterally. He also uses solid hands to disengage and attack offensive linemen. He’s a little slow to set the edge and doesn’t move well enough to drop into pass coverage. He’ll excel in a 4-3 alignment where all he needs to do is rush the passer.
Ngakoue missed the final two games of last season with a throat injury.
2022 by the numbers:
- 15 games (15 starts)
- 732 snaps
- 9.5 sacks
- 16 QB hits
- 1 forced fumble
- 29 tackles
- 8 TFLs
Career stats (2016-2022):
- 110 games (102 starts)
- 5,253 snaps
- 65 sacks
- 135 QB hits
- 21 forced fumbles
- 202 tackles
- 65 TFLs
- 13 pass break-ups
- 2 interceptions