Tight end Evan Engram was an integral piece of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense last season. However, he’s scheduled to become a free agent and there’s a realistic chance he’ll leave in free agency. While using the franchise tag seems like a realistic option to bring him back, the Jags should refrain from using it.
Ari Meirov of The 33rd Team put together a list of likely candidates to get the franchise tag this offseason and Engram made the cut. Meirov argues that the tag could give Jacksonville more time to strike a long-term deal with the former Ole Miss Rebel.
"Evan Engram took a one-year, prove-it deal last offseason to join Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence, and it could not have worked out any better. The former Giants first-round pick totaled a career-high 73 receptions and 766 yards, and his 481 yards after the catch was second-most among tight ends.Both sides want to keep it going and the Jacksonville Jaguars could use a franchise tag as a placehoder for an eventual long-term deal."
Besides posting career highs in both catches and receiving yards, Engram set franchise records in 2022 for yards in a single game by a tight end, yards in a season by a tight end, and receptions by a tight end in a season. Not surprisingly, both Engram and the Jags have expressed a desire to ink a multi-year contract.
Other players Meirov believes mentions as candidates to get the franchise tag this offseason are quarterback Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), running back Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders), quarterback Geno Smith (Seattle Seahawks), defensive tackle Daron Payne (Washington Commanders), quarterback Daniel Jones (New York Giants), offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Kansas City Chiefs) and defensive end Dre’Mont Jones (Denver Broncos).
Using the franchise tag on Evan Engram would hinder the Jaguars
Evan Engram developed a nice rapport with Trevor Lawrence and he became one of his favorite targets last year, so it makes sense for the Jaguars to bring him back even if they have to pay a premium. Having said that, applying the franchise tag would be a bad idea.
Slapping Engram with the tag would set Jacksonville back $11.3 million, which is less than the annual average of the top tight ends. However, the Jaguars don’t currently have space so they would have to absorb the full amount this year. it would be better if the front office gives him a contract that pays him a big signing bonus upfront but won’t count against the cap until 2024.
Simply, the franchise tag would limit the Jaguars’ ability to acquire or re-sign other players this offseason, so they should only use it as a last resort once contract talks have fallen apart. While Engram has earned a raise, he isn’t the only player deserving of a new contract, and paying him now means Jacksonville won’t be able to sign a player next year.
The Jaguars should do everything within their power to lock up Engram but they surely have a contingency plan in place in case he changes teams in free agency. While it might not be the outcome everyone would like, they must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.