Trevor Lawrence was expected to make a leap under the tutelage of head coach Doug Pederson but the Jacksonville Jaguars knew that coaching alone wouldn’t be enough to help their young quarterback win football games. That’s why they went on a spending spree in free agency and replenished both the offseason and the defense. Looking back, it was money well-spent as most of the players the team’s brass signed went on to fill in key roles in 2022.
On the other hand, the Jags won’t have as much cap space as they did last season and won’t be able to make as many signings. Similarly, they might have a hard time bringing back some of their pending free agents. Among the players that could walk in free agency is tight end Evan Engram, who deserves to be paid, according to former league executive and NFL Media analyst Marc Ross.
In a recent column, Marc Ross put together a list of 10 NFL players “who’ve earned big-money contracts” and Evan made the cut. Ross argues that a change of scenery and renewed confidence helped the former Ole Miss Rebel thrive in Jacksonville.
"Engram never reached his potential in New York, struggling with drops and losing his confidence. But in 2022, his sixth pro season and first in Jacksonville, the tight end played with a ton of confidence and flourished under Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence. Playing on a one-year deal, the hybrid playmaker recorded career-highs in receptions (73) and receiving yards (766) while adding four touchdowns for a Jaguars team that enjoyed a tremendous turnaround. there is no question Trent Balke and Pederson are looking to retain him."
The Jaguars want Evan Engram back but it’s not a given he’ll return
Ross was the Giants vice president of player personnel when they drafted Engram, so he’s got firsthand knowledge of what the tight end brings to the table. In retrospect, New York and Engram were in for a fresh start and both seem to be doing just fine. Just like the Jags, the Giants went on to make playoffs, while Engram went on to have a career year.
Now, the Jaguars need to decide whether they’ll pay Engram or not. Opinions vary on what kind of salary he will command but the front office should be ready to throw some bags of cash his way. Last offseason, Jacksonville wanted to get a long-term contract done but he opted to bet on himself and signed a one-year deal worth $9 million.
Engram took a calculated risk and it paid off. While he’s made it clear he wants to return after having the best year of his career, the Jags shouldn’t expect him to take a hometown discount. As a matter of fact, they must be ready to give him a raise. So what kind of contract will the Mississippi get?
It’s hard to tell without being involved in the negotiations but asking for a deal that pays him an annual average of $12 million to $13 million wouldn’t be surprising. The top 5 tight ends in the NFL currently make over $14 million per year, so Engram would be among the top 10.
The Jaguars’ brass has also expressed their desire to bring back Engram, which should make negotiations a bit easier. Having said that, a return isn’t a given and there’s a realistic chance he will walk away in free agency.
Engram was a great addition to the Jaguars’ offense in 2022 and he should be at the top of their priority list. However, the Jags will have a contingency plan in place if they can’t keep him around.