Yannick Ngakoue is the gamechanger the Vikings defense needed. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have already thrown in the towel on this season.
Earlier today, the Jaguars traded away star pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for two draft picks. this trade felt inevitable but it didn't have the implications that it now displays. As with most trades in sports, the team that landed the best player in the deal has the immediate reward and is aiming to win right now while the other team can ultimately win the deal if they use the picks they just received correctly. This trade is unique as it involves two different football cultures that are heading in two different directions.
The Vikings entered this off-season with a good roster but with of those great players taking massive contracts that put the Vikings in cap Hell. Tough decisions had to be made and the Vikings appear to have made all the right decisions. The first action was trading Stephon Diggs, a top receiver but one that wanted out of Minnesota, to the Buffalo Bills for draft picks (primarily a first-round pick in the 2020 draft). The Vikings then released former pro-bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a once top lockdown corner but a bad season made him a liability. Now that the Vikings had cap room, they would be able to make a move or two, which they did when they traded for Ngakoue.
The defense was already good but the worst salary cap situation forced the Vikings to lose some key defenders. They already paid Anthony Barr, Erik Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Danielle Hunter which forced them to let Everson Griffin leave to the Cowboys in free agency. A lot of weight in the success of the defense will be determined by the draft picks the Vikings placed on defense. The Vikings drafted two cornerbacks in the first three rounds in Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney, the team spent eight total picks on defense as the emphasis was to find depth and potential replacements for some of the aging veterans on defense. Yannick Ngakoue is the game-changer that can turn this defense from a solid one to a great one. After losing Everson Griffin, the Vikings needed a pass-rusher and now they have one.
The trade not only leaves little to no flaws on the Vikings defense but it leaves the Vikings with one of the more complete rosters in the NFC. A few weeks ago, the Seattle Seahawks traded multiple draft selections for one of the best safeties in the NFL in Jamal Adams. Throughout the off-season, the Dallas Cowboys have been signing players with high ceilings despite the potential risks, with the addition of resigning Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott, they have gone all-in on this season. The Vikings have been as active and might continue to make moves as the season progresses. The Vikings already were built to win now, trading for Ngakoue only pushes that argument further.
As for the Jaguars, the wheels have fallen off. It has become clear through ownership and management that the Jaguars are not going to be competitive or even try to be. Since the AFC Championship team in the 2017 season, the Jaguars have let go or traded all of their star players, especially the ones on defense. Aside from Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars have been trading away these star players for pennies on the dollar and the Ramsey case speaks to the volumes of how players want out of Jacksonville. I know there is a bias that I have when it comes to terrible teams, the Jaguars are one of those teams that can't win a trade because everything they do is bad (they could have gotten two first-round picks for Ngakoue and I would have said "well they should have gotten three"). I know I have the opposite bias towards good teams (the Patriots could have traded Ngakoue for a seventh-round pick and I would say "genius move Belichick wins a trade again). This trade is exceptionally nad for the Jaguars, they traded away one of the best pass-rushers in the league for a second-round pick in the 2021 draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft. The bottom line is that the Jaguars could have gotten a significantly better deal, I know that Ngakoue wasn't happy in Jacksonville and made it clear he wanted out but keep in mind that the Jets got a great haul for a player who was in the same situation.
The future does not look bright in Jacksonville. Even if they are trying to tank or trust in a process, there is no process to trust. They actively are getting rid of any player that is worth anything and the draft picks they are receiving in return are hoping to someday be as good as the players they traded away. At this point, the Jaguars need roster help throughout the roster, one draft class won't make the Jaguars competitive or even two great classes. The Jaguars are likely to fire Doug Marrone this off-season even though a terrible season won't be his fault. The Jaguars also are likely to land the number one pick in the draft but it won't help since there is no player that can turn the team around (even if they somehow draft Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields and they indeed become the next Patrick Mahomes). Jacksonville is a mess right now, a mess the management gave themselves.