JACKSONVILLE – It was the first day's first and biggest news.
But in a sense, it was hardly news at all.
Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, as long has been expected, as of Thursday was the lone Jaguars player who has not arrived for 2020 Training Camp. Head Coach Doug Marrone made the news official by announcing it early Thursday afternoon during the first media availability of '20 camp.
Marrone was asked if the team was at full strength.
"Yes, except for Yannick," he said.
Marrone said he has not had conversations with Ngakoue recently.
"But like I've said before: He's one player that I know is always ready," he said.
Marrone, speaking from TIAA Bank Field on a video conference with local media, discussed multiple issues regarding '20 camp. Notably, he also said no Jaguars player has spoken to him about opting out of the 2020 season, something permitted because of COVID-19 and something multiple NFL players this week announced they will do.
The NFL and NFL Players Association have yet to finalize the agreement that will allow opting out. Players reportedly will have seven days after finalization to opt out, after which they will not be able to reverse their decision.
"No one has talked to me, personally, about their thoughts on that – or considering that," Marrone said. "That's not to say that that can't change. That could change over the next couple of days."
All players except for Ngakoue either have reported to camp or reported for COVID-19 testing. As of Thursday afternoon, five players – right tackle Jawaan Taylor, offensive lineman Ryan Pope, cornerback Luq Barcoo, defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton and offensive lineman Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms – remain on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning they must clear testing protocol before being moved to the active roster. Cornerback Josiah Scott was moved from the list to the active roster Thursday.
But the biggest topic on Marrone's Thursday video conference was one that was expected:
The absence of Ngakoue, who is scheduled to enter his fifth NFL season in 2020 but who has yet to sign the franchise tag that Jaguars assigned to him early this offseason.
Ngakoue, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, under NFL rules has the option of signing the tag and playing for the Jaguars on a one-year contract worth an estimated $17.8 million – or not playing this season. Ngakoue has tweeted multiple times this offseason that he wants to be traded.
Ngakoue is not violating NFL rules with his absence. Because he has not signed the franchise tag, he is not under contract and therefore cannot be fined for not being in camp. He has the option of signing the tag and reporting to the Jaguars any time before Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season; if he does not sign the tag by then, he will not play this season.
Marrone on Thursday emphasized that he's not concerned about Ngakoue being ready, if or when he reports.
"He's a player who's always ready, always taking care of himself," Marrone said.
Marrone said he also understands Ngakoue's perspective.
"As a coach, you'd love for that perfect harmony between management and the player as far as the business end of things," Marrone said. "I think when you look at it, both sides have rights from the management side to a player's side. As a coach, you're always looking for a solution that you can be part of to help bring parties together."
Ngakoue, a third-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, made the Pro Bowl following a career-high 12 sacks in 2017. He has 37.5 sacks in four seasons, including eight this past season. His 14 forced fumbles are the fourth-most in the NFL since 2016.
Marrone, asked how the Jaguars will prepare in the coming weeks should Ngakoue not report immediately, said: "I think when you look at the draft and you look at free agency, as a coach you want to prepare yourself for any situation. I think we're prepared for the first one and we're prepared for every different scenario that can possibly occur."
The Jaguars selected defensive end/linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson from Louisiana State University No. 20 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft a year after selecting defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen No. 7 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Allen made the Pro Bowl following a 10.5-sack season as a rookie.
The Jaguars also signed two edge defenders as unrestricted free agents – seven-year veteran Aaron Lynch (Chicago) and seven-year veteran Cassius Marsh (Arizona).
"We feel we're prepared for it – so whatever action happens, we'll be able to move on," Marrone said. "You wouldn't want to take that risk, of assuming that something's going to happen and backing yourself into a corner where you're always adjusting. It's much easier with the plans we have now – that whatever happens, it's kind of built in. There's really no adjustment if it goes the other way."