The Jacksonville Jaguars have a building block in outside linebacker Josh Allen, who's coming off a breakout year. He's set to become a free agent in March but general manager Trent Baalke made it abundantly clear in his latest exchange with the media that Allen isn't going anywhere.
When asked about Allen's contract status, Baalke limited himself to saying that "Josh [Allen] will be a Jaguar." He later said that they're far from reaching a deal, with conversations having just gotten started.
"We want him here. Can we come to a number that works for everybody? That's the key and I respect that. Like I said last year with Evan's situation, you got to respect these guys that put themselves in this position. They work hard. They deserve to make good money, what that good means to them, it could be different than what it means to us. So we just got to come together, sit down at the table, and work things out," Baalke said.
Baalke was later asked if he's open to using the franchise tag on Allen. He didn't commit to doing it but it seems like he wouldn't rule it out, "I'm not going to commit to anything right now relative to
the franchise tag. But at the same token, Josh Allen is going to be a Jaguar next year."
Allen, the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft, got off to a hot start to his NFL career, registering 10.5 sacks and making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. However, he wasn't able to build on his early success, tallying a combined 10 sacks the next two years. In retrospect, several things prevented the former Kentucky Wildcat from reaching his potential.
injuries and the Urban Meyer debacle most definitely played a role. Also, not having Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell around added more pressure on his shoulders to deliver. It wasn't until 2023 that he was able to put it all together, setting a new team record for sacks in a season with 17.5.
The Jaguars need to get Josh Allen's extension out of the way
While the Jaguars' trust in Josh Allen hadn't wavered, they took a wait-and-see-approach. They exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal and let his contract play out before making a decision. The approach paid off, and Allen delivered. Now, the Jags need to make paying him one of their top priorities in the offseason.
Last year, they used the franchise tag on Evan Engram to buy themselves more time to strike a deal. They could do the same with Allen but they're better off getting a deal done in free agency, so they could tag wide receiver Calvin Ridley if they also want to keep him around but don't want to commit to a long-term deal. Teams can only use one franchise tag per year, so the Jags might want to have the flexibility to use the tag on either Allen or Ridley.
Another benefit of getting a deal done early is that Allen will be available for offseason activities. Last year, he skipped OTAs, and the Jaguars would surely want their best defensive player to be available this time around, especially when you take into account that defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen will be installing a new scheme.
Ultimately, it's good to see Trent Baalke saying that Josh Allen isn't going anywhere. That said, this will be a topic of discussion until he puts his name on the dotted line. For that reason, the Jacksonville Jaguars are better off getting it out of the way as soon as possible, so there aren't rumblings about him potentially leaving in free agency.