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Roster Move: Bears sign edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue

New Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue
New Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue

The Bears on Friday bolstered their defense by signing veteran defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to a one-year contract.

"We are super excited to add Yannick to our team today with his leadership, experience and high motor on the edge," general manager Ryan Poles said. "We want to thank Drew Rosenhaus for helping to bring him to Chicago."

Ngakoue has appeared in 110 NFL games with 102 starts over seven seasons with the Jaguars (2016-19), Vikings (2020), Ravens (2020), Raiders (2021) and Colts (2022). He has recorded 202 tackles, 65.0 sacks, 65 tackles-for-loss, 21 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

"Super excited about him coming into the building and with his leadership and his experience and his rush ability," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Certainly welcome him to our family and also welcome him to our D-line room."

Ngakoue grew up in Washington, D.C. He attended Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School, where he was teammates with former Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. Ngakoue later played one season at Maryland with Bears receiver DJ Moore.

Ngakoue has generated at least 8.0 sacks in all seven of his NFL seasons. He was selected by Jacksonville in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Maryland. The 6-2, 246-pounder was named to the Pro Bowl in 2017 after registering a career-high 12.0 sacks and an NFL-leading six forced fumbles. He also scored his first pro touchdown, returning a fumble 67 yards against the Titans.

"The pass rush stands out first of all, to be able to capture the edge with his speed," Eberflus said, "but to also have the strength and that length to be able to level back. A lot of guys have that speed rush, but you've got to still be able to bore at the top to be able to finish the rush. That's an important piece, and he has that."

In 2019, Ngakoue recorded his first NFL interception, picking off an Andy Dalton pass and returning it 23 yards for a TD versus the Bengals.

Ngakoue was traded from the Jaguars to the Vikings Aug. 31, 2020, and from the Vikings to the Ravens Oct. 22, 2020. He signed with the Raiders in 2021 and started all 17 games, compiling 10.0 sacks.

Ngakoue was later traded by the Raiders to the Colts March 16, 2022. He started all 15 games he played for Indianapolis last season, producing 9.5 sacks.

When Ngakoue played for Las Vegas in 2021, former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was his position coach and current Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith was the assistant defensive line coach. 

Ngakoue will play in a similar defense with the Bears. 

"I think he fits really well," Eberflus said. "He was in that same type of scheme there (with the Raiders). It's really the same type. It's not going to be a stretch for him. He fits really well, so we're excited about that. And we had some intel on him; 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 going to be a good addition."

While Ngakoue is a prolific pass rusher, he'll also play on run downs with the Bears. 

"We see him as an every-down end, so he's going to have to play in those situations," Eberflus said. "And he's done it. He's been good at it, and we've got to make sure that he sharpens that part of it as well. And he will do that. We're excited where he is in terms of being an every-down defensive end for us."

Ngakoue is one of only five players who have produced at least 8.0 sacks in each of their first seven NFL seasons. The others are Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware and Aaron Donald.

Based on what Eberflus learned from Marinelli and Smith, Ngakoue's consistent production is due in large part to his practice habits. 

"I guess he's full tilt when he practices, and he keeps himself in great shape," Eberflus said. "He's very mindful of his body and how he stays in great shape to be able to go hard like that. To be really good and effective in pass rushing, you've got to bring it and you've got to bring it every single down. You can't take a play off, and that takes being in great shape, and you've got to have that mentality."

Like every player who begins practicing for the first time, the Bears will ease Ngakoue into training camp, first in individual drills and then team work, while adhering to the "HITS" principle.

"We have our standards here of how we operate, how we hustle, how we finish, how we play," Eberflus said. "That's our play style, right? And the style's not just for the game, it's for the practice too. So we want to see him buy into that and really take that on and have ownership of that."

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