With the Chicago Bears choosing to sign Yannick Ngakoue over Justin Houston brought on a lot of talk about the long-term status of Ngakoue with the team. Ngakoue, being 28 years old while Houston is 34, is significant in a few ways.
More than anything, it means that there is a much better chance that we get the peak of Ngakoue physically, where the best days of Houston are almost certainly behind him. However, another argument that has stemmed is that Ngakoue may be a long-term building block, while Houston may be a year away from retirement.
It brings an interesting question of whether Ngakoue is actually a building block or not. He spent four seasons on the Jacksonville Jaguars due to his rookie contract. From there, he will be on his fifth team in four seasons. He was traded during one season and has never played with a team for a second year after his rookie salary contract.
This would make it hard to see the Chicago Bears extending Ngakoue. The outcomes for Ngakoue are either that he provides about a similar value as recent years, which means eight sacks, and potentially some up-and-down run defense. Or, he could be a lot worse, and the sacks do not come. At times you wonder if the lack of consistent wins will catch up to him. He could also improve dramatically against the run, and be that same sack producer.
If Ngakoue is about the same, the outcome will be about the same. Chicago Bears fans will view him like Colts and Raiders fans, where they appreciate the production but will not be surprised when he leaves. If Ngakoue gets worse, then Bears fans will hate the signing, and he will not re-sign. Even if things dramatically improve and he becomes that elite player, it will bring serious questions.
We have seen for three straight years that not only are teams ready to move on from Ngakoue, but he is ready to leave as well, mainly because he wants the most money. If he shows an all-around game, he will want to test the market and let the bidding war start.
Yes, the Chicago Bears have the cap space to lock him down, but do they want to do that after just one year, when he is age 29? They would have to go long-term and bring guarantees to make him not want to test the market. A 29-year-old pass rusher who wants a one-year deal and is coming off his best year would be in an insanely high market, and Ngaokoue knows that from years on the market.
So, while the thought is nice that Ngakoue has the chance to fit in, be a team player, and become a core piece of a run, the reality is that he is probably a rental. Three straight seasons say that is the case, and it is hard to think this will be different.