Former Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue is back in the NFC North after signing a deal to suit up for the Chicago Bears this season.
Less than a week ago, the Minnesota Vikings and pass rusher Danielle Hunter agreed to a new deal that prevented the team from finding a replacement for him. Coincidentally, the guy who the Vikings traded for when they actually needed a replacement for Hunter in 2020, Yannick Ngakoue, will also now be playing for a team in the NFC North during the upcoming season after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears on Thursday.
Ngakoue's deal with the Bears is worth $10.5 million and it's fair for one to believe that Minnesota could have been interested in signing him this offseason if their contract negotiations with Hunter ended up crumbling.
The 28-year-old pass rusher is coming off a 2022 campaign with the Indianapolis Colts in which he racked up 9.5 sacks, 27 pressures, and one forced fumble. Since the Vikings traded him in the middle of the 2020 season, Ngakoue has accumulated 22.5 sacks in 41 games split between stints with the Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and Las Vegas Raiders.
Should the Minnesota Vikings be worried about the Chicago Bears in 2023?
With Thursday's signing, Ngakoue is now the third defensive free agent Chicago has given a contract to this offseason that has an annual average value of at least $7 million. Earlier this year, the Bears gave linebacker Tremaine Edmunds a four-year deal worth $72 million and defensive end DeMarcus Walker a three-year contract worth $21 million.
The Bears' defense generated the fewest pressures in the entire NFL in 2022, so they clearly placed an emphasis on improving their pass rush during the last few months. Minnesota will definitely be going up a much more talented defensive front in their two matchups against Chicago during the upcoming season.
The Vikings swept their series with Chicago last season, but the Bears have made a number of significant improvements to their roster this year, so it wouldn't be surprising if they snuck away with at least one win in their two contests against Minnesota in 2023.
It still seems like Chicago is about one more year away from contending for the top of the NFC North, but they should be much more competitive during the upcoming season compared to 2022, when they only won three games. At the very, very least, the Bears are not a team that the Vikings should take lightly when they face them in 2023.