The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is among the best in the NFL. And one big reason for their success is the emergence of outside linebacker Josh Allen, who's having a breakout season. Coincidentally, Allen is in the last year of his rookie deal, which has lead David Kenyon of Bleacher Report to include him on his list of players likely to switch teams in 2024.
Allen was one of eight players Kenyon believes will become free agents and will change uniforms next year. He cites the contracts Montez Sweat and Rashan Gary recently sign as a reason the Jags will have a hard time locking up Allen long-term.
To his credit, Kenyon says Jacksonville should do anything they can to keep Allen. However, he then suggests that the Jaguars may want to push second-year pass rusher Travon Walker into a bigger role.
"From my perspective, the Jacksonville Jaguars can hardly afford to not bring him back. Allen has accounted for nine of the defense's 16 sacks in 2023, so losing him could be a crushing blow to the pass-rushing group.
One complication would be if the Jags are willing to push Travon Walker, the first pick of the 2022 draft, into a featured role. Whether that's a wise decision is a fair question, yet Allen is clearly in position to start negotiations at around $25 million per season."
This scenerio doesn't is a bit odd since the Jaguars don't have to chose Allen or Walker. Both can play and complement each other. In fact, their rotation could use another pass rusher, and the team actively tried to trade for one at the deadline, so it wouldn't make sense to let Allen leave in free agency just to give Walker a bigger role.
Allen, the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft, had 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. However, his production fell up the next couple years. A knee injury limited him to eight games and just 2.5 sacks in 2020. He was fully healthy and posted 7.5 sacks the followings season but the Urban Meyer debacle might've affected his performance.
With Urban Meyer out of the picture in 2022, Allen, along with pretty much every other player on the Jaguars' roster, was able to bounce back. His 77 total pressures ranked sixth among pass rushers and his fumble recovery in Week 18 was pivotal in propelling the Jaguars into the playoffs. On the other hand, Allen disappeared at times and his sack totals weren't the ones you would expect from an upper-echelon pass rusher.
The former Kentucky Wildcat acknowledged in the offseason that he wasn't as good as he wanted to be last year and was focused on being truly great in 2023. It's fair to say that he's lived up to expectations. His nine sacks are tied for fifth in the league and he ranks in the top ten in most meaningful pass-rush categories, including pressures, win rate and quarterback hits.
The Jacksonville Jaguars must be willing to give Josh Allen a top-market contract
Montez Sweat signed a four-year, $98 million contract not long after he was traded to the Chicago Bears. Just a few days before, the Green Bay Packers gave Rashan Gary one a four-year commitment worth $107.5 million. Both deals could be used used as the starting point in negotiations between Josh Allen and the Jaguars. But regardless of what the baseline will be, the team's brass must do everything they can to keep their start pass rusher.
Unlike the previous regime, Jacksonville has made an agressive effort to retain key players under general manager Trent Baalke. This bodes wells for Allen's chances of remaining with the Jags beyond this season.
Back in 2022, they placed the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson before giving him a multi-year deal. They took the same approach with tight end Evan Engram this year, and he also got a long-term contract. Simply, it's hard to see the Jaguars letting Josh Allen walk next year, even if he wants top-market compensation.
If the Jaguars fail to reach an agreement with Allen, they can use the franchise tag in order to give them more time to keep contract talks going, but they won't simply let him walk. He's become a key cog on defense and a locker room leader. Also, letting him leave could send the message that the organization doesn't want to value their players and doesn't want to build around them.
Is there a chance Josh Allen won't return to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2024? Sure, but it should be slim. After all, He's done more than enough to earn a contract extension and solidify his case as a building block.