Yannick Ngakoue believes he is coming to the right place at the right time.
Joining the Ravens had long been on Ngakoue's mind, as a native of Bowie, Md. who played college football at Maryland. Now the pass-rushing defensive end is officially coming home after Thursday's trade.
Ngakoue said the trade was a "mutual agreement" between himself and the Minnesota Vikings to be traded and that the Ravens felt like "the best fit."
One of the best parts is that it will put him closer to home and his mother, Chantelly, who worked double shifts with a full-time job and still managed to take him to practices growing up.
"It was an emotional moment just letting her know that I was coming back home and that I was on the next flight to come back to Maryland," Ngakoue said. "Now, me being down the street, it's just so simple and so easy. We can definitely get together and just spend a lot of time with each other. She has a huge impact on me. ... She's definitely a major reason why I'm in the shoes I'm in right now."
Ngakoue loves joining a talented team that is 5-1 and with a chance to make a Super Bowl run. He also loves being reunited with Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, who became a close friend when the two were teammates for three years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"It feels great to have a person that you have familiarity with, rushing and chemistry," Ngakoue said during a Friday video conference. "He's a three-technique who knows how I love to rush. I like to take chances and things like that. We had a lot of success in Jacksonville. We're just hoping to do the same things here."
In the final year of his contract, Ngakoue will be highly coveted if he hits the free-agent market after the season. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Baltimore has coveted Ngakoue for months, and that it would not be surprising to see him sign long-term deal with the Ravens, much like cornerback Marcus Peters did after he was traded to Baltimore last season.
Ngakoue said he will focus on playing well, but signing a long-term deal with the Ravens is a scenario he would welcome. He had sought that deal from Jacksonville before being traded to Minnesota.
"Things like that I leave up to God," Ngakoue said. "If it's meant for me to be here a long time then that's what it is, and I'll be more than excited to be back home. This is where it all started for me with my dream."
Acquiring a proven pass rusher like Ngakoue should be an immediate boost to a Baltimore defense that already leads the NFL in fewest points allowed. With 42.5 career sacks, Ngakoue has registered at least eight sacks in all four of his previous NFL seasons, and he had five sacks in six games with Minnesota. It's obvious that Ngakoue's ability to rush the passer travels with him wherever he goes.
Ngakoue's skill as a pass rusher adds another dimension to Baltimore's opportunistic defense that has already forced 11 turnovers. Meanwhile, joining a team that has the NFL's most talented secondaries should only help Ngakoue reach the quarterback.
"Rushing and cover goes together," Ngakoue said. "When you rush the quarterback well, corners and safeties get interceptions. When your corners and safeties cover well, you have more time as a defensive lineman to get to the quarterback. It all goes hand in hand. All those guys are tremendous as far as coverage skills, tackling skills. It will definitely help the defense out, not even just myself, as soon as I arrive."
Playing together in 2017 with Jacksonville, Campbell, Ngakoue and Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey led a Jaguars defense that carried them to the AFC Championship game where they lost to the New England Patriots. Now Ngakoue and Campbell have another chance to chase a championship with Baltimore, and Ngakoue can't wait to get started.
"I'm just a guy who wants to make a huge impact," Ngakoue said. "I've been part of a top defense in 2017 and I know what it takes to uphold that standard. Coming to another team that has a lot of success going on is a blessing."