Yannick Ngakoue joining Bears on 1-year deal worth $10.5M

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Free agent defensive end Yannick Ngakoue signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears, the team announced Friday. The deal is worth $10.5 million with $10 million in guaranteed money, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Bears will be Ngakoue's fifth team since the start of the 2020 season. The pass-rusher has posted at least eight sacks in every season of his seven-year NFL career and is coming off a 9.5-sack season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022.

"I just feel like it was a great fit," Ngakoue said of signing with the Bears. "Going back to what this culture means here, just the history here and also, it's a great transition -- easy transition -- with my position coach and my defensive coordinator."

Ngakoue played for Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith in 2021 as a member of the Raiders where he was also coached by Rod Marinelli, who spent five seasons with Bears coach Matt Eberflus in Dallas (2013-17). The four-down fronts Ngakoue played in from Las Vegas to Indianapolis and similar schemes are why Eberflus believe the defensive end will be a strong fit in Chicago.

"It's not gonna be a stretch for him," Eberflus said. "He fits really well, so we're excited about that. And we had some intel on him. Obviously, what kind of teammate he is, what kind of person he is, what kind of worker he is. And he checked all the boxes there for us. He's gonna be a good addition."

The Bears have been exploring the market for a potential addition at edge rusher since the spring. Last season, Chicago was led in sacks by then-rookie safety Jaquan Brisker with four. The Bears' pass rush pressured opposing quarterbacks on 22% of pass plays (second worst behind the Atlanta Falcons) and generated only 7.5 sacks from their defensive linemen.

The Bears' 20 sacks in 2022 were the fewest in the NFL. Chicago signed defensive end DeMarcus Walker in March and is looking to second-year edge rusher Dominique Robinson and fourth-year defensive end Trevis Gipson to be part of its rotation. At the start of training camp, general manager Ryan Poles left the door open for the Bears to continue to add along the defensive line.

"It takes two to make sure it works out, so there's a level of patience that comes with," Poles said on July 25. "There's no guarantee. If not - no, I'm excited with the guys that are here. Walker's done a great job. Robinson's coming along. Gipson's coming along. So, I'm happy with the guys that are here. But obviously we're gonna look to improve if we can. So if it works out, we'll attack it.

Ngakoue said conversations with the Bears were "fluid" throughout his free agent process. He likened his traits to a former Bears pass rusher and believes his opportunity in Chicago could help him reach the next level of his career.

"A guy that I really loved to watch was Julius Peppers when he had his stop [in Chicago]," Ngakoue said. "A guy that was a great power rusher. A guy that great speed off the edge. And coach Marinelli was also a guy that coached him. He used to tell me we have a lot of the same attributes and I just have to tap into that skillset and just show the world."

Ngakoue, 28, spent the first four years of his career with Jacksonville before the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on him during the 2020 offseason. He was traded from Jacksonville to Minnesota in August 2020, then played six games before being sent to Baltimore ahead of the trade deadline. Despite one-year stints in Las Vegas and Indianapolis in 2021 and 2022, Ngakoue's production has not dipped.

Ngakoue has 65 sacks, 135 quarterback hits, 31 forced fumbles and 65 tackles for loss in his career.

"It goes back to productivity," Ngakoue said. "I feel like I'm blessed to be able to produce consistently and that's what I plan on doing for my team here. We need to be able to be consistent and that's what I'm trying to bring here."