Yannick Ngakoue

Getty DE Yannick Ngakoue of the Chicago Bears.

The Cleveland Browns are building for right now, and one block they’re missing is a depth piece who can rush opposing quarterbacks off the edge.

As such, Matt Bowen of ESPN dubbed Cleveland the top fit for former Chicago Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who remains a free agent and can fill one of the few clear needs remaining on the Browns’ roster.

“The Browns have edge depth, led by 2023 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett, but this move would be more about adding a designated pass-rusher in Ngakoue,” Bowen wrote. “Last season in Chicago, Ngakoue had four sacks and 20 pressures, and he has totaled 69 career sacks over his nine pro seasons. Signing Ngakoue to a one-year deal would give defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz another rusher to scheme for in true passing situations.”

Yannick Ngakoue Could Be Browns’ 2nd-Best Edge Rusher if He Lands in Cleveland

Giants called NFL free agency landing spot for Bears' Yannick Ngakoue.Giants called NFL free agency landing spot for Bears' Yannick Ngakoue.

GettyFree agent pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, formerly of the Chicago Bears.

Cleveland improved dramatically as a defense from 2022 to 2023, and the sack category was no exception. The Browns went from 34 sacks as a team two seasons past to 49 sacks one year ago, ranking them 6th among all NFL teams in the category.

That said, the only player even close to double-digit numbers was Garrett, who put up 14 sacks during his first Defensive Player of the Year victory. No one else on the squad registered more than the 5.5 sacks belonging to fellow starting defensive end Za’Darius Smith.

Ngakoue isn’t a guarantee to exceed Smith’s mark in 2024, but the history of his career suggests that if he remains healthy, he is beyond capable of notching 6 sacks or more. Over his first seven professional campaigns, Ngakoue tallied at least 8 sacks each year, per Pro Football Reference.

The 4 sacks he totaled in Chicago last season were a career-low, though injury that cost Ngakoue four games was a culprit in that total. The fact that the Bears didn’t add another legitimate pass rusher to the roster until the trade deadline, when the team dealt a second-rounder to the Washington Commanders in return for Montez Sweat, also likely impacted Ngakoue’s season total.

The Bears paid Ngakoue $10.5 million last season to play in the Windy City, and the Browns could potentially land the 29-year-old for even less given his recent injury history and the fact that his free-agent status has now stretched into late May.

Browns’ Ogbo Okoronkwo Sets Goal of Double-Digit Sacks in 2024

Cleveland Browns DE Ogbo Okoronkwo will likely miss the rest of the season with an injury.Cleveland Browns DE Ogbo Okoronkwo will likely miss the rest of the season with an injury.

GettyCleveland Browns defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo #54.

The Browns added help off the edge last season when the team paid former linebacker turned defensive end/edge-rush specialist Ogbo Okoronkwo a total of $19 million over three years to bolster its pass rush.

Okoronkwo tallied 4.5 sacks in 14 games played last season, his first in Cleveland, and has recently declared his intention to more than double that total in 2024.

“This year, I’m trying to … I mean, I’ll say it, I’ll speak it into existence — I’m going for double-digit sacks this year,” Okoronkwo said, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 Houston on May 17. “That’s the goal every year.”

Even assuming Okoronkwo remains healthy enough and plays well enough to achieve his stated goal, the Browns have the incentive and the means to sign a player like Ngakoue to a one-year deal and add depth to a pass-rushing rotation that could use the extra security.

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