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Raiders agree to terms with DE Ngakoue, lose WR Agholor

Updated March 15, 2021 - 5:00 pm

In desperate need of pass-rush help, the Raiders on the first day of free agency Monday agreed to terms with veteran pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, a person close to the situation confirmed.

The Raiders also lost wide receiver Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots and back-up running back Devontae Booker to the New York Giants.

The move to add a proven rusher off the edge — Ngakoue has 45½ sacks during his five-year career — is seen as a critical component to new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3, Cover-3 defensive scheme. Bradley was the head coach in Jacksonville when the Jaguars drafted Ngakoue in 2016 and coached him through his rookie season.

The Raiders generated 21 sacks last year, which was 29th in the NFL. That number contributed to the Raiders allowing the third-most points.

Bradley is averse to blitzing and relies on his defensive linemen to create pressure, flooding the secondary with seven defenders. The key, though, is the pressure coming from the front four. Ngakoue, 25, fits that profile and is in his prime.

His addition likely will move third-year defensive end Maxx Crosby to the bench as a pass-rush specialist. Cle Ferrell will start at one end and Ngakoue on the other, with Crosby and Carl Nassib in the rotation. There also will be flexibility to slide Ferrell inside on passing situations, perhaps sharing the field with Crosby and Ngakoue.

Ngakoue was a third-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016. With his contract coming to a head and his misgivings with the Jaguars’ franchise well known, he was dealt to the Minnesota Vikings last August.

His stay ended in October when he was traded to the Baltimore Ravens. Ngakoue ended the season with eight sacks in 15 games.

Agholor, who agreed to a two-year $26 million deal, led Raiders wide receivers with 48 catches for 896 yards, making good on his one-year league minimum salary. His loss will be felt, though it opens the door for a more prominent role for young wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards.

A glut of veteran wide receivers on the market also could fill that spot.

Besides the Ngakoue signing, the Raiders appeared content with patiently waiting on talent.

The Browns’ signing of Rams safety John Johnson took a big chip off the board where the Raiders need major help. The price for Johnson — three years, $33.75 million, with $26 million guaranteed — was well within the Raiders’ means and suggested this was more about fit than money.

Johnson was arguably the top player at his position, but his $11.25 million annual average salary does not reflect his distinction as the best player available at his position. If Johnson is a marker of the market, that bodes well for the Raiders as they go about filling their needs.

Depending on what happens with guard Gabe Jackson and backup quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Raiders were scheduled to have $40-$51 million to spend under the salary cap before Ngakoue signing. With needs at both guard spots, right tackle and the secondary, the plan is to be patient in order to stretch that money as far as possible.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore onTwitter.

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