MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Vikings traded defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens for draft picks on Thursday, less than two months after acquiring the fifth-year pass rusher in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ngakoue is tied for fourth in the NFL with five sacks in six games, including two forced fumbles, but the Vikings entered their bye week with a 1-5 record and thus more incentive to focus on the future than stay competitive in 2020.
“This was an opportunity that I felt would accomplish both the short and long term as we move forward, but these decisions aren’t easy to make,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
With Everson Griffen gone via free agency and Danielle Hunter injured since the beginning of training camp with a potentially season-ending neck injury, the Vikings on Aug. 31 sent a second-round draft pick in 2021 and a conditional fifth-round selection in 2022 for Ngakoue. He wanted to leave the Jaguars after accumulating 37 1/2 sacks in four years and called his arrival in Minnesota “a breath of fresh air.”
The Vikings have Ifeadi Odenigbo in place at defensive end, and fourth-round draft pick D.J. Wonnum will now be in line to start at the other spot.
“What you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.
Minutes after Spielman's previously scheduled video news conference with reporters, NFL Network reported Hunter has decided to have surgery. The Vikings were initially hoping he'd be able to return with rest and rehabilitation, and Spielman said acquiring Ngakoue was not related to Hunter's injury. Since then, outside linebacker Anthony Barr was also lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered on Sept. 20.
“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,” Spielman said.
With the trade deadline approaching on Nov. 3, the Vikings could try to trade some other high-priced veterans, with perhaps safety Anthony Harris, left tackle Riley Reiff or tight end Kyle Rudolph enticing another team to part with a draft pick or two. Spielman steadfastly refused to commit to a full-on rebuild.
“Our goal every week is to go out there and win football games. You have to balance out both. I still think we have a very talented team,” Spielman said.
The Vikings didn't disclose specifics of the acquired draft selections. ESPN reported the Ravens will send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick.
Both teams are on their bye week.
The Ravens (5-1) could use Ngakoue to enhance a pass rush that has been productive of late but could use the help. Despite getting seven sacks against Cincinnati two weeks ago, five of those came from defensive backs. Defensive end Calais Campbell was acquired via trade, also from Jacksonville, during the last offseason. He had three of Baltimore’s six sacks last week in a 30-28 win at Philadelphia, but Ngakoue ought to minimize the need to send extra rushers and allow the Ravens to generate more pressure from their front four, just as the Vikings were intending.
“A quarterback can’t throw the ball if he’s on his back. So, if you can’t get there with four, you send five. If you can’t get there with five, send six. That’s the way it goes,” pass defense coordinator Chris Hewitt said.
The Ravens are fourth in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
“We are excited to add Yannick Ngakoue to our football team,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Yannick is someone who we are very familiar with going back to the draft process years ago. He is an exciting player and a dangerous pass rusher who makes us better. Yannick grew up here. He’s the type of person we welcome in our building. Finally, we are not finished building this team, as we continue to chase our ultimate goals.”
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg contributed to this report.
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