Jags general manager Dave Caldwell told the team website that Jacksonville "would love to have" the defensive end back with the team in 2020 and beyond. An unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 18, Ngakoue will be a highly sought-after player, but the Jags are confident that their leader in sacks since 2016 will stay with the franchise.
"It's a deal that we feel like could take a little bit of time but should be done hopefully relatively easily," Caldwell added.
Ngakoue is arguably the top passer rusher available in free agency, along with Jadeveon Clowney, Shaquil Barrett, Matthew Judon and Bud Dupree. Over four seasons in Jacksonville, Ngakoue rose from a 2016 third-round selection to a top-tier edge rusher. In 63 games played (and 62 starts), he logged 37.5 sacks, 85 QB hits and 42 tackles for loss; Ngakoue led the league in forced fumbles (6) in 2017 when he led Jacksonville to the AFC title game and made his first Pro Bowl.
Caldwell said after the season that retaining Ngakoue was the team's No. 1 priority. To do so, Jacksonville will surely have to pony up a sizable long-term deal for the 24-year-old rising star. For context, last offseason, the Detroit Lions gave defensive end Trey Flowers a five-year $90 million deal ($18M in average annual value, the highest of any non-QB in free agency).
Under personnel exec Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville traded away their 2016 first-round selection in October, shipping Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for draft capital. With Coughlin out and Caldwell and senior VP of football administration Tony Khan calling the shots again, don't expect the Jags to let their third-round steal from that same draft out the door so easily.