Jaguars Prepared To Use Franchise Tag On Josh Allen, Want To Retain Calvin Ridley

Although Josh Allen and Calvin Ridley‘s rookie deals began in different years, those five-year contracts will expire at the same time. Ridley’s 2022 gambling suspension changed his timetable, which puts his second NFL employer on the clock now. Both players are set for free agency, though the team would prefer neither reaches the market.

It appears fairly clear how the Jaguars will approach this decision, with a hierarchy forming early. Allen will be prioritized. GM Trent Baalke confirmed (via’s Cameron Wolfe) the five-year edge rusher will be a Jaguar next season. This would point to the Jags being prepared to use the franchise tag once again.

Jacksonville has used the tag in each of the past three years, keeping both Cam Robinson and Evan Engram off the market. They tagged Robinson twice. For Allen, a tag would cost nearly $22MM. Though, the recurring linebacker-or-defensive end debate would figure to come up here. Allen is nominally an outside linebacker but for all intents and purposes plays defensive end. This issue has come up for several teams in the past, as the linebacker tag — which groups on- and off-ball ‘backers together — is set to check in around $1.5MM below the DE number.

The Ravens reached a compromise with Matt Judon back in 2020; that could be relevant for the Jags and Allen, who played defensive end when the team used a 4-3 scheme. New DC Ryan Nielsen has used both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes during his time as a coordinator. Judon’s Ravens agreement notwithstanding, teams generally win these debates — should a grievance come from Allen’s side.

The Jags retaining Allen will be pivotal; the Kentucky alum broke through in a contract year. After hitting double digits in sacks once — as a rookie in 2019, with 10.5 — over his first four seasons, Allen registered 17.5 in 2023. This could not prevent a Jacksonville late-season collapse, but it undoubtedly made the former top-10 pick some money. Of course, this performance coming after three seasons in which Allen failed to surpass eight sacks also could lead to a “prove it” request from the team that leads to the tag once again coming out. That said, the Jags kept Allen out of trades at the 2022 deadline. The 26-year-old pass rusher will bring some leverage to extension talks, which Baalke confirms have not yet begun.

Ridley’s situation is more complicated. The Jags re-signing the 2018 first-round pick would determine what draft choice goes back to the Falcons. The Jags already sent the Falcons a 2023 fifth-round pick for Ridley, but the second choice is conditional depending on the Alabama alum’s future in north Florida. If the Jaguars re-sign Ridley, they would owe the Falcons a second-round pick.

The sky’s the limit; he’s only going to get better because of the way he works,” Baalke said of Ridley. “When you love something as much as he loves football, you can’t help but get better. We would love to have Calvin back. We are going to work toward that. What that means is, I don’t know right now.”

Ridley’s age also could complicate matters for the Jags. He is already 29, being set to turn 30 during the 2024 season. Jacksonville also has Christian Kirk tied to an $18MM-per-year accord and Zay Jones on an $8MM-AAV pact. Engram’s 2023 tag led to a three-year, $41.25MM extension. While Trevor Lawrence remains on a rookie deal, he should be expected — despite an inconsistent season — to receive a mega-extension either in 2024 or 2025. A Ridley re-up would represent a significant commitment to the skill positions. Travis Etienne is also now extension-eligible.

The 2022 trade pickup did produce his second 1,000-yard season, accumulating 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns in 17 games. This came after Ridley missed the 2022 season and most of the 2021 campaign, the latter absence coming after the talented wideout cited mental health reasons for leaving the Falcons. Ridley re-established some momentum in 2023 and, after generating extensive trade interest in 2022, would be one of the top wideouts on the market, should the Jaguars not re-sign him before the legal tampering period.

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