The Jacksonville Jaguars inked tight end Evan Engram to a one-year deal last year and he went on to have a banner year, setting new career highs as well as breaking a few franchise records. Engram wanted to parlay his breakout season into a long-term arrangement but instead got the franchise tag. Even though he believed the tag would serve as a placeholder, no deal seems to be imminent.
Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports that one tag decision that "seems to be up in the air" is Engram, noting that he and the Jags have until 4 p.m. ET, July 17 to strike a deal or he'll play on the $11.3 million tag next season.
Throughout the offseason, Engram made it clear that he was open to re-signing with Jacksonville. Similarly, there was mutual interest in getting a contract done and there's a good chance there still. The roadblock to getting it done is probably Engram's salary demands and the team's offer.
Engram could argue that he played like a top-5 last year and should be compensated like one. On the other hand, Jacksonville might have made a proposal that pays him more than the tag annually but doesn't make him one of the highest-paid players at the position. The truth is that from an outside perspective, it's hard to tell if the Jaguars are lowballing the Ole Miss Rebel or if the amount he's asking for is significantly more than what they expected to invest in him.
Either way, deadlines spurs actions and the Jaguars and Engram could get a deal done if they get on the negotiation table. While it may be unlikely, there's still time.
The Jaguars may ultimately let Evan Engram play on the franchise tag in 2023
Engram became an integral piece in the Jaguars' offensive puzzle. Nobody can argue that and that's not what's stopping the Jaguars from giving him a long-term deal. The issue is that they'll have to make several contract decisions next year. Besides needing to prioritize some players, the team's brass will have a finite budget, so they won't be able to bring back everyone.
Besides Engram, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and outside linebacker Josh Allen will be free agents next season. Similarly, Trevor Lawrence will be eligible for an extension and the sooner Jacksonville gets him under contract, the cheaper it will be. It's hard to tell what the quarterback market will look like in 2024 but Lawrence could earn as much as $55 million per year.
This is to say that the Jaguars would likely want to bring Engram back but they're taking a responsible approach with the salary cap. It's possible that they will let their star tight end play the 2023 season under the tag and let him walk in free agency next offseason. He can then get the multi-year contract he's been seeking for from another club.
The bottom line is that this isn't a case of the Jaguars being cheap. Simply, they know they'll need to spend big next year, which is why letting Engram play under the tag might be the best course of action in order to save a bit of space.