After the NFL Draft, it looked like there was a chance the Las Vegas Raiders might try to re-sign cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. The Raiders were expected to target a corner with one of their early picks, but they didn’t end up taking one until the fourth round, and Ya-Sin, the team’s top player at the position last season, was still a free agent.
Last offseason, Las Vegas traded for Ya-Sin and sent pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts in a player-for-player swap that turned out to be a fairly even trade, but not in the way either team would have hoped...
Ngakoue did keep his career-long streak running of logging at least eight sacks for the seventh year in a row, racking up 9.5 quarterback takedowns last year in Indianapolis. However, he continued to show the same issues that have plagued him over the last several seasons; getting consistent pressure and defending the run.
Per Pro Football Focus, the former Colt ended the 2022 campaign with 44 pressures which tied for 36th among edge defenders. His win rate as a rusher was even worse, sitting at 11.0 percent and ranking tied for 89th out of 125 qualifiers at the position. As a run defender, he earned a below-average grade from PFF for the seventh consecutive year with an abysmal 43.7 mark, the 11th-worst among his peers.
Perhaps the best proof that Ngakoue hasn’t been playing well despite the sack numbers above is that he’s still available on the open market. So, in theory, he could return to Indianapolis. However, Gus Bradley, the team’s defensive coordinator and one of the pass-rusher’s biggest supporters, appears to have closed that door based on the quote below obtained by the IndyStar on April 19.
“We lost Yannick Ngakoue,” Bradley said. “He was a tremendous player for us. That’s the NFL. There’s some times you bring new guys in, and they have to step up, and every year’s a new year with the team.”
Bradley’s statement came a little more than a month after the Colts signed edge rusher Samson Ebukam to a three-year, $24 million contract in free agency. For comparison’s sake, Ebukam did have fewer sacks and one less pressure than Ngakoue last year, but his pass rush win rate was 4.9 percent higher and his run defense grade was 22.2 points better.
Meanwhile, the Raiders did get solid play out of Ya-Sin last year as he recorded a 65.8 coverage grade from PFF and forced seven incompletions, both of which led the team’s cornerbacks. Across the league, those figures ranked 57th and tied for 51st out of 135 qualifiers. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to scoff at either.
However, the four-year veteran missed six games and ended up serving as an expensive one-year rental.
Per Spotrac, Las Vegas took on $8 million of dead cap space to send Ngakoue to Indy while also paying Ya-Sin a little more than $2.5 million, meaning the trade cost them $10.5 million for an above-average starting corner. The Colts also had to eat some cap space too, but only a little less than $1 million.
Also, the Raiders essentially chose Chandler Jones over Ngakoue, signing the former to a contract that includes $32 million in guarantees around the same time as the trade adding to their bill. Jones ended last season with 4.5 sacks, 47 pressures, a 13.1 percent pass-rush win rate and a 65.5 grade as a run defender.
So he was better than his predecessor, but enough to warrant that much of a finical investment? No, especially since the discussion surrounding the potential Hall of Famer this offseason has been about how soon the team can get out of his contract.
Between the Raiders spending about a million per game for an above-average corner, and the Colts getting underwhelming production from their pass-rusher while neither player is on the respective rosters a year later, it’s safe to say both teams lost the trade.
One could argue that one club lost less than the other, but the fact of the matter is both ended up taking an ‘L’.