Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s free-agent class of edge defenders could include several impact players, but the Jaguars look poised to keep one of them off the market.

Yannick Ngakoue's rookie contract is up, and he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency. But general manager Dave Caldwell wants to ensure Ngakoue is a Jaguar next season, and he is the franchise’s top offseason priority.

“He’s a tremendous player and even a better person. I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure that he comes back to Jacksonville and that he’s a Jacksonville Jaguar,” Caldwell said. “Hopefully, we can get that done where he’s here for a long period of time.”

The Jags and Ngakoue negotiated last year but could not come to terms on an extension. Ngakoue played out his contract year and ended up with eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits. The latter figure was significantly down from his 33 in 2018. But for his career, the talented pass-rusher has 37 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. He’s become one of the game’s better pressure artists.

Ngakoue's camp will be negotiating with a new-look Jaguars setup, with Tom Coughlin no longer in place atop the team’s decision-making structure. The former third-round pick stayed away from the team until training camp. The Jaguars extended Myles Jack but traded fellow 2016 draftee Jalen Ramsey. That leaves Ngakoue left on the franchise’s to-do list. The Jags still have Calais Campbell under contract and saw Josh Allen excel as a rookie. But they’re committed to keeping Ngakoue, who will not turn 25 until March.

Should the Jags go with the franchise tag for Ngakoue, it would cost them approximately $18M. Jacksonville is projected to be $900K over the cap, so Caldwell will have work to do to clear out space to keep Ngakoue. The Maryland alum joins the likes of Arik Armstead, Jadeveon Clowney, Bud Dupree, Dante Fowler, Matt Judon, Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Lawson and Markus Golden as edge-rushers whose contracts will soon expire. Some of these talents will hit free agency. It will make for an interesting several weeks on the edge defender front, with the Jaguars playing a key role in shaping the market.

This article first appeared on Pro Football Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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