Tagged in: Yannick Ngakoue

Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter to have season ending neck surgery

The Vikings will forge through the remainder of the campaign without their top two pass-rushers, one of whom has not seen the field in 2020.

Hours after Minnesota traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens, recouping much of the draft capital they sent to Jacksonville when they acquired the defensive end in August, a league source confirmed to ESPN that Danielle Hunter will undergo season-ending neck surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Hunter’s injury was initially described as a “tweak” by coach Mike Zimmer and was expected to keep him out six to eight weeks, according to a source. The defensive end’s last practice was Aug. 14, the Vikings’ first day of practice during training camp.

Hunter, who had 54.5 sacks through five seasons and back-to-back Pro Bowl honors, agreed to an extension in 2018 and is set to be under contract for the next three seasons. In spite of his production, becoming the fastest player ever to reach 50.0 sacks, Hunter is the 18th-highest-paid defensive end with an average salary of $14.4 million per year.

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It was widely expected that the Vikings would have to restructure Hunter’s contract in the upcoming offseason to better reflect his value. But with the salary cap expected to drop considerably in 2021, Minnesota will soon need to resolve whether they can make Hunter the league’s highest-paid defensive end with a deal north of the $27 million per year paid to Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa, or potentially entertain offers for a trade.

The Vikings have not publicly acknowledged Hunter’s season-ending surgery. Weeks ago, the defensive end traveled to New York to get a second opinion on his neck injury.  Zimmer had said that the visit did not reveal any further clarity about his condition.

“[He’s] still kind of mulling his options, I think,” Zimmer said on Oct. 14.

Earlier Thursday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman discussed the team’s decision to trade Ngakoue to the Ravens and whether he thought back in August that Minnesota would be able to field both pass-rushers this season, in spite of Hunter’s injury.

“I would say it was more — because we didn’t know where Danielle was at the time — what you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.

“To have a Yannick and Danielle coming off the edges, to have an Anthony Barr and the way Zim has schematically used him to create pressure on the quarterback so he’s one-on-one with running backs, that’s how we envisioned it. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out like that. You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now.”

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Jaguars to use franchise tag on DE Yannick Ngakoue

The Jacksonville Jaguars kept one of the most consistent pass-rushers in the league on their defensive front Monday when they reportedly used the franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Jaguars plan to use the tag but could trade Ngakoue at a later date. Ngakoue tweeted he informed the team he does not plan to sign a long-term contract. Schefter added the “tag for DEs carries an approximate salary of $19.3 million.”

Ngakoue, who turns 25 on March 31, wanted a new deal before last season, but negotiations broke down and he skipped most of OTAs as well as the mandatory minicamp.

The Jaguars reportedly offered a deal that averaged $19 million annually while Ngakoue’s camp was looking for something similar to the $22 million that quarterback Nick Foles signed for.

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He held out of the first 11 days of training camp and was fined $528,650, which included $88,650 for skipping the three-day minicamp in June. Ngakoue made $2.02 million last campaign.

“The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville. Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I’m thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere,” Ngakoue tweeted.

Ngakoue played the first four seasons of his career in Jacksonville.

“But I would say that’s priority No. 1 to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville and that he’s a Jacksonville Jaguar,” general manager David Caldwell previously told reporters. “Hopefully, we can get that done where he’s here for a long period of time.”

Ngakoue was a 2017 Pro Bowler with 12 sacks, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries and finished with at least eight sacks in each of his first four seasons since the Jaguars selected in the third round in 2016.

This past season, he forced four fumbles to go with his eight sacks, an interception and a defensive touchdown. Ngakoue will be 25 years old during the 2020 season.

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