Yannick Ngakoue remains on the free-agent market and the Carolina Panthers need edge help, but does this represent a good fit?
The Carolina Panthers have an abundance of salary cap space burning a hole in their pocket with only quarterback Bryce Young to sign from their 2023 NFL Draft class. But there doesn't appear to be any great urgency from general manager Scott Fitterer to spend heading into the team's upcoming training camp at Wofford College.
Those in power are giving everyone a chance before taking action one way or another. Fitterer also wants to keep some cash back for any in-season moves if opportunities present themselves or injury strikes.
That said, the Panthers have two glaring needs looking at their depth chart unless certain individuals make remarkable improvements under Carolina's all-star coaching staff. They look a little weak at the cornerback position due to injuries and poor consistency, with the pass-rushing opposite Brian Burns also coming into camp with more questions than answers.
Are the Carolina Panthers and Yannick Ngakoue a good match?
If players such as Marquis Haynes Sr. and Yetur Gross-Matos don't show enough, expect the Panthers to delve into the veteran pool for an option capable of producing immediately. One of the biggest names remaining on the market is Yannick Ngakoue, who has a previous working relationship with head coach Frank Reich from their brief time together on the Indianapolis Colts.
Ngakoue is an explosive pass-rusher with the numbers to match. The Pro Bowler has 65 career sacks and showed no signs of slowing down with 9.5 quarterback takedowns for the Las Vegas Raiders during the 2022 campaign.
In some respects, it's surprising to see Ngakoue still sitting on the market. But many have wondered whether he'd be a good fit for the Panthers given his struggles in setting the edge on running downs.
This is the primary objective for any edge player first and foremost within Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base. However, Schuyler Callihan of Sports Illustrated recently came around to the idea of having Ngakoue on board despite the obvious concerns.
"I've come around on [Yannick] Ngakoue's fit in Carolina. Didn't really care for it earlier this offseason but the more I think about it, the more I like it. He's arguably the best pass rusher on the market and that fits exactly what Carolina needs. He's a bit undersized (6'2", 246 lbs) to play defensive end in a 3-4, so I imagine he would slide into an outside linebacker role where he only has nine games of experience. Ngakoue doesn't help much in the run game but the Panthers can get creative to make sure they don't get gashed."- Schuyler Callihan, Sports Illustrated
Carolina has so many unknowns aside from Burns that it's hard to see how Ngakoue wouldn't help their cause in 2023. Much will depend on the money involved and whether the former Maryland star is willing to join a project that isn't expected to mount a Super Bowl bid in the first season with Reich leading the charge.
Ngakoue might also need to accept a situational pass-rushing role given his lack of run-stopping. Again, that doesn't appear likely for someone that played 73 percent of defensive snaps for the Colts in 2023.
The Panthers are going to make a move in this critical area. Whether that's Ngakoue or someone else is another matter.