Jacksonville Jaguars use franchise tag on Josh Allen: What's next for Calvin Ridley?

• The Jaguars had no choice but to apply the franchise tag on Josh Allen. The decision, though, could narrow down their options in free agency.

Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen (41)
Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen (41) / Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars are placing the franchise tag on outside linebacker Josh Allen, effectively preventing him from hitting the open market. While there was a slim chance they could agree to a deal before the deadline, they couldn't get anything done. The issue with tagging Josh Allen is that they'll now have limited options when it comes to re-signing Calvin Ridley.

The Jags wanted Allen to play his rookie contract out, instead of extending him, because they weren't convinced he was a difference-maker. After an outstanding 2023 campaign, one in which he broke the team record for sacks in a season with 17.5, there shouldn't have been any doubt he was the player they envisioned when they drafted him seventh overall in 2019.

But even after his banner season, general manager Trent Baalke didn't seem overly concerned with starting contract talks. By the end of January, he hadn't gotten in touch with Allen and his representatives, something he didn't take kindly. By the time the NFL Scouting Combine was underway, both parties had started negotiations but a deal didn't seem imminent.

Without better alternatives, the Jags tagged Allen, which will prevent him from hitting the open market. Other teams could trade for him but they would have to give Jacksonville two first-round picks, which makes it unlikely. On the other hand, the tag will also buy the team's brass more time to get a long-term extension done.

But if they haven't struck a deal by July, Allen will have two options. Play under the tag, or sit the season. One middle-ground option would be for the former Kentucky Wildcat to hold out early in the season (he wouldn't get fined if he hasn't signed the tender) and suit up for just six games to accrue for a full season. He would then become a free agent in 2025.

For the time being, Allen isn't going anywhere. The Jags had previously created around $18.5 million of cap space — in addition to the $24 million they had — after releasing cornerback Darious Williams, defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, and safety Rayshawn Jenkins. By using the tag, Allen will take up $24 million in space next season.

The Jaguars will have limited options after using the franchise tag on Josh Allen

By tagging Josh Allen, the Jaguars can now turn their attention to retaining wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Set to hit the open market, Ridley was the team's most productive wideout last year, catching 76 receptions for 1,016 yards with eight touchdowns. Moreover, he drew a league-best seven pass-interference calls in his favor. Jacksonville could most definitely use him.

The Jaguars were reportedly interested in making a run for Mike Evans if he had been available in the open market. However, he re-signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, effectively making Ridley the best wide receiver slated to hit free agency. If the Jaguars were serious about pursuing Evans, they should spare no expenses to bring back Ridley.

The only issue the Jags will need to wait for Ridley to become a free agent if they don't want to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick, as they agreed to when they traded for him in 2022. Had they signed Allen to a long-term deal, they could've used the franchise tag on Ridley and kept their second-rounder. Now, it's become a bit more complicated to bring the Alabama product back, as he'll have no shortage of suitors if he makes it to free agency.

In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars checked off a box when they used the franchise tag on Josh Allen. While there were much better alternatives to keep him around, it was much better than watching him leave. It will now be interesting to see what moves they do next.

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