Tight ends did not factor prominently into the Giants’ surprising 2022 run to the divisional round. While the team’s pass-catching group doubled as one of the NFL’s worst, no Giants tight end topped 275 receiving yards last year. This led to the Darren Waller trade.
Prior to sending the Raiders a third-round pick for the former Pro Bowler, the Giants finished out a five-year relationship with Evan Engram. The 2017 first-round pick went through an up-and-down tenure in New York, eventually relocating to Jacksonville after a mediocre contract year.
A “prove it” deal made sense for Engram, who trudged through his worst season in 2021. Engram’s 408-yard season worked out to just 27.2 per game — by far a career-low mark. Then again, the Giants’ 2021 season was not exactly teeming with skill-position success. The team fired OC Jason Garrett midseason and promoted Freddie Kitchens, and when Jones went down with a neck injury, the Mike Glennon–Jake Fromm duo struggled to the point Joe Judge — viewed late that season as a fairly safe bet to stay for a third year — ended up on the chopping block.
Engram did eclipse 650 yards in two of his first four seasons, posting one of this century’s best rookie-year tight end yardage totals in 2017 (722) and making the Pro Bowl in 2020. The ’20 showing came after the Giants picked up the Ole Miss product’s fifth-year option. His Jaguars contract year brought a return to that form.
Indicating he expected to receive more interest than he ended up drawing, Engram said only four teams contacted him in free agency. With the Jaguars needing to offer $9MM — more than 2022 franchise tag recipients Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki received this offseason — it was clear at least one other team expressed reasonable confidence Engram could recover. After setting a Jaguars single-season tight end yardage record (766), Engram posted 12 receptions for 124 yards in the playoffs. This production led to the Jags tagging Engram and extending him on a three-year, $41.25MM deal. Engram entered the season as the NFL’s seventh-highest-paid tight end; through six games, the seventh-year pass catcher has 36 receptions for 301 yards.
After their successful 2022 slate, the Giants traded the No. 100 overall pick — the selection they received for Kadarius Toney before the 2022 deadline — for Waller. The ex-Raiders star is two years older than Engram, at 31, and has battled injuries in recent years. Despite a nagging groin issue, Waller has suited up for each Giants game. He has 28 catches for 282 yards in what has been a disappointing season for New York’s offense, which has seen injury trouble prevent a true evaluation of Jones or his skill crew. The Giants restructured Waller’s contract upon acquiring him, adding a $7.1MM dead-money charge were the team to move on in 2024.
The max-value figure in DeAndre Hopkins‘ Titans deal emerged when he committed to the team, but guarantee numbers had been elusive. No longer, as the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin details Tennessee’s true commitment to its new WR1. The two-year, $26MM pact contains $10.98MM guaranteed at signing (Twitter link). The Chiefs and Patriots preferred incentive-laden contracts that did not come especially close to the guarantee figure the Titans authorized.
The contract also includes three void years. The void numbers allowed the Titans to keep Hopkins’ 2023 cap number low ($3.67MM), and the team can move on — via a post-June 1 cut designation — in 2024 fairly easily. Tennessee could create $14MM in 2024 cap space by using the June 1 mechanism, as it did with Julio Jones last year, should this fit not work out. This decision will likely come in March, as OverTheCap notes Hopkins is due a $4.06MM bonus if on the Titans’ roster by Day 5 of the 2024 league year. That setup stands to prevent Hopkins from another summer free agency stay.
Here is the latest from the AFC South:
Careful not to divulge too much about the Colts’ QB plan, Shane Steichen confirmed Gardner Minshew and Anthony Richardson would rotate with the first team during training camp. Minshew began that rotation as the first-teamer to start camp, Mike Chappell of Fox 59 notes. Although Richardson did not gain much seasoning as a Florida starter and is considered a rawer prospect than Bryce Youngor C.J. Stroud, his draft slot points to extensive rookie-year work. Jim Irsay confirmed as much earlier this month, indicating Richardson needs to play early. Minshew, who worked with Steichen in Philadelphia, signed a one-year, $3.5MM deal in March.
DeMeco Ryans will not work as a CEO-type coach with the Texans, with NFL.com’s James Palmer noting he will call the team’s defensive plays this season (Twitter link). The former Houston linebacker called San Francisco’s defensive plays from 2021-22, becoming a hot HC candidate after the 49ers’ defense ranked first across the board last season. Matt Burke will serve as a non-play-calling Texans DC.
Both Joey Porter Jr.and Will Levis were in the mix for fully guaranteed rookie contracts, but neither received such terms. Levis did fare better than last year’s No. 33 overall pick, however, with KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson noting the Titans QB’s four-year deal is 91.5% guaranteed. That is up from the $80.4% guarantee last year’s No. 33 choice (Buccaneers D-lineman Logan Hall) received on his rookie deal. Levis also secured training camp roster bonuses totaling $1.76MM from 2023-26. Those figures are fully guaranteed through 2025, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger tweets.
The Titans’ first-rounder, Peter Skoronski, spent time at guard and tackle during the team’s offseason program. But Mike Vrabel provided some clarity about the No. 11 overall pick’s NFL path. The college tackle is working as a guard right now. Considering the Titans brought in tackles George Fant and Chris Hubbardon visits last week and have Nicholas Petit-Frere set to return to his right tackle post once his six-game gambling suspension ends, it makes sense the Titans would keep Skoronski at guard. Neither Fant nor Hubbard have signed with the team.
Evan Engram‘s three-year, $41.25MMJaguars extension includes three void years, with Wilson noting (via Twitter) the deal will void 23 days before the 2026 league year. Pro Bowl incentives — worth $250K per year — are also present in the tight end’s contract.
Veteran tight end Luke Stocker‘s playing career wrapped after 11 seasons (2011-21), and Vrabel said during a recent appearance on Taylor Lewan and Will Compton‘s Bussin’ With the Boys podcast that he is part of the Titans’ coaching staff. Stocker, 35, was with the Titans from 2017-18, overlapping with Vrabel during the latter season. He also played with the Bucs, Falcons and Vikings.
JULY 17: Further details on the Engram pact are in, courtesy of Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. The 28-year-old’s two-year base earnings will fall just short of what he would have made by playing on consecutive franchise tags this season and next, thanks to the fully-guaranteed $24MM. Incentives could push his two-year compensation slightly past that point, however, making the deal a market value one from both a team and player perspective.
As for 2025, Engram will see $1.5MM of his $14.75MM base salary vest just ahead of the league year that offseason, giving him further insurance if he remains with the Jaguars through that point. Doing so should not be in doubt given his performance last season and the resultant commitment Jacksonville has given him.
JULY 16: Franchise-tagged tight end Evan Engram has agreed to a three-year deal with the Jaguars. His agent, Mike McCartney, was the first to report the news (via Twitter), which has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
The contract is worth $41.25MM and includes $24MM in guarantees, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Given that the franchise tag would have paid Engram roughly $11.35MM in 2023, Engram essentially landed a two-year “extension” of about $30MM. His average annual value of $13.75MM across all three years of the pact is the fifth-highest figure among the league’s tight ends, though the $14.95MM AAV for the 2024-25 “extension” seasons is the third-highest mark, behind only Darren Waller and George Kittle. The $24MM of guaranteed money reported by Rapoport and Pelissero is fully-guaranteed, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and it qualifies as the fifth-highest amount of full guarantees ever given to a TE.
After an up-and-down five-year tenure with the Giants to begin his career, Engram inked a one-year, $9MM contract with the Jaguars in March 2022, which turned out to be a savvy investment for a club that has historically had difficulty getting high-end production from the tight end position. In his first year in Duval, Engram set Jacksonville’s single-season tight end records with 73 catches and 766 receiving yards, and he was instrumental in the growth that quarterback Trevor Lawrence displayed in his second pro season. Engram caught 74.5% of his regular season targets, which was a personal best, and he added 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Jags’ two playoff contests.
With Engram having signed a multiyear pact, the Jaguars have a strong core of skill-position talent under club control through at least 2025, a group that also includes Lawrence, running backs Travis Etienneand Tank Bigsby, and wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. Plus, wideout Calvin Ridley will return to the field this season after serving a one-year gambling suspension, so there is every reason to think that the Doug Pederson-led offense can remain productive for the foreseeable future.
Tagged players have until 3pm CT on Monday to ink multiyear deals, and of the four tag recipients who were still in contract talks with their respective clubs, Engram was seen as the likeliest to come to terms on a long-term accord. On Friday, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network suggested that there was a roughly 50-50 chance that Engram and the Jags would strike a deal, while the prognosis is not nearly as good for the Giants-Saquon Barkley and Raiders-Josh Jacobs negotiations.
Updates on Tony Pollard‘s discussions with the Cowboys have been scarce, but unlike his RB peers, Pollard has signed his franchise tender and may be content to play out the 2023 season on the tag. While tight ends might be undervalued, the fact that Engram has secured a new deal while the three tagged RBs have not reinforces the notion that running back is presently the league’s most devalued position.
According to Garafolo, there hasn’t been much good traction on a deal between New York and Barkley. He reports that the two sides “are still far apart.” He notes that three days is technically plenty of time to get a deal done, especially for the franchise that signed quarterback Daniel Jones to a new deal minutes before the franchise tag deadline. Garafolo confirms that Barkley has “threatened to potentially holdout into the season,” meaning that he certainly shouldn’t be expected at training camp unless a new deal is reached.
Similar news for Jacobs, as we’ve been reportingthroughout the day. It’s become clear that he and Las Vegas are not near an agreement as the clock ticks down. Garafolo relays a report from colleague Tom Pelissero that Jacobs is not going to be at training camp without a new deal and is also a candidate to holdout into the regular season.
Engram’s situation appears to be a bit less harrowing. Despite the fact that Engram wasn’t present for the team’s spring OTAs and minicamp because of the unsigned tag, he is still expected to be present at training camp, even if the two sides fail to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. According to Garafolo, the likelihood of that deal coming to fruition appears to just under a 50-50 chance.
If no extension agreements are finalized before 3pm CT on July 17, these players will be tied to the tag this season. For players who remain on the tag after that date, no long-term negotiations are permitted until season’s end. With one position dominating the tag landscape this year, here is how the four situations look entering crunch time:
Saquon Barkley, Giants; tag price: $10.1MM
Easily the negotiation that has brought the most twists and turns, Barkley has been in off-and-on talks with the Giants since November. The Giants’ Joe Schoen–Brian Daboll regime inherited Barkley, but they have extended two other Dave Gettleman-era draftees (Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence) this offseason. But the team’s most popular player finds himself is battling another leaguewide devaluation of the running back position. As Barkley turned down two offers with AAVs north of $12MM — one of those being higher than $13MM per year — the Giants pulled their top proposal off the table after their March extension-tag sequence involving Jones and Barkley.
Barkley, 26, took issue with being characterized as greedy, citing Giants leaks that did not reveal the full truth about the offers he declined. Insufficient guarantees hover at the root of Barkley’s gripes. With the Giants having the option of re-tagging Barkley for barely $12MM in 2023, it is understandable the two-time Pro Bowler would seek a guarantee north of $22MM per year — to cover both tags.
Only two veteran backs (Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry) are tied to deals including more than $20MM fully guaranteed. While McCaffrey encountered injuries on his second contract, the 1,000-1,000 performer did not run into Barkley’s rookie-deal health issues. Those could certainly be giving Giants brass pause regarding guarantees.
These talks have included rumblings of Barkley skipping training camp — if unsigned by July 17 — and a (likely idle) threat of following Le’Veon Bell‘s 2018 path of sitting out the season in protest. The Giants are believed to be OK with Barkley playing on the tag, but ownership remains high on the former No. 2 overall pick. That might be driving the recent optimism in these talks. The skill-position-deficient Giants relied on Barkley (1,650 scrimmage yards) last season, and while they have let two players (Jason Pierre-Paul, Leonard Williams) play on the tag, the team has never not extended a player whom it tagged. (Both D-linemen signed extensions after being tagged again.)
Dating back to their Julius Thomas miss, the Jaguars have struggled to staff this position. Engram provided a win for GM Trent Baalke, whose first free agency class as lead Jags decision-maker made significant contributions. But Engram also has a history of inconsistency, having never put it together for an extended stretch as a Giant. Engram does have an original-ballot Pro Bowl nod on his resume (2020) and saw the Giants pick up his fifth-year option prior to that performance. His 2021 provided a letdown, but the Giants — with Jones going down with a neck injury that November — were not exactly in position to see any pass catcher thrive at that point.
Guarantees are undoubtedly an issue here. A 2024 Engram tag would cost $13.62MM, likely giving the 28-year-old pass catcher a guarantee target of $25MM. Only three veteran tight ends (Mark Andrews, George Kittle, Hunter Henry) have secured that at signing, but with those deals taking place in 2020 or ’21, Engram can make a case — on a $224.8MM salary cap — he deserves such security as well. The tight end market appears out of step with its top cogs’ contributions, with Travis Kelce still tied to a $14.3MM-per-year deal. That offers an interesting complication in these Engram discussions as well.
Josh Jacobs, Raiders; tag price: $10.1MM
A threat to miss game checks makes more sense from Barkley, who has earned nearly $40MM in five seasons. Jacobs following suit is less logical, as he has made $11.9MM in four NFL years. The Raiders passed on Jacobs’ fifth-year option, and he proceeded to become the team’s first rushing champion since Marcus Allen did so in a 1985 MVP season. Jacobs, 25, zoomed onto the tag radar with his 2022 performance, but while the Giants have made multiple offers to Barkley, it is unclear if the Raiders are making a serious push to extend Jacobs. The team is still hopeful, but numbers have proven elusive.
The Alabama product has offered cryptic assessments of his negotiations, hinting at making a stand for the running back position. Seeing as Bell has expressed belated regret for passing on $14MM with his 2018 anti-tag crusade, it would surprise if Barkley or Jacobs stayed away into the season. It might be a negotiating tactic, as RBs are low on leverage these days, but the threat of Jacobs skipping Week 1 has surfaced. With Josh McDaniels in a crucial year — after his first Raiders HC season went south quickly — and the Raiders now employing the league’s most injury-prone quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo), Jacobs putting regular-season absences on the table is an interesting move.
While Jacobs is still more likely than not to be in uniform in Week 1, the prospect of an injury or regression affecting his 2024 market should be a factor here. Jacobs’ light Crimson Tide workload (251 college carries) worked in his favor, but the Raiders giving him an NFL-most 393 touches last season undercuts that advantage to a degree. Players to log that many touches in a season over the past 10 years (Henry, McCaffrey, Bell, DeMarco Murray) either fared far worse the following year or, in Bell’s case, skipped the next season.
With Jacobs not the same threat out of the backfield McCaffrey, Barkley or Alvin Kamara are, a top-market pact will be hard for the fifth-year vet to secure. With McDaniels previously expressing support for the Jon Gruden-era draftee, will be interesting to see what numbers come out of these talks.
Tony Pollard, Cowboys; tag price: $10.1MM
The Cowboys are certainly unafraid to unholster their franchise tag, having used it in each of the past six years. In addition to keeping Pollard away from free agency, Dallas tagged Dalton Schultz, Dak Prescott and DeMarcus Lawrence in that span. With Prescott and Lawrence being tagged twice and Schultz leaving after his tagged season, the Cowboys have been fine letting players carry tag figures into seasons. Considering Pollard’s is the lowest cap hit among Dallas’ recent tags, the team is likely OK with the $10MM number staying on its books this year.
Pollard, 26, presents perhaps a more interesting case for a mid-2020s ascent compared to the Giants and Raiders backs. He has taken just 510 handoffs as a pro — Barkley sits at 954, Jacobs at 1,072 — and offers pass-game explosiveness that helped lead Dallas to drop Ezekiel Elliott.
The six-year, $90MM Elliott extension did not age well for the Cowboys, who are eating $11MM-plus in dead money over the next two years after the post-June 1 cut designation. But Elliott also accumulated more mileage (868 carries) before signing that extension. Pollard’s rookie-contract usage rate and skillset point to a promising late-20s stretch. Although Elliott’s deal helped spread out his cap hits, the Cowboys are eyeing a shorter-term Pollard pact.
As a former fourth-round pick, Pollard was smart to sign his tender and secure the guaranteed salary. Coming off a season in which he totaled 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns, the Memphis alum’s arrow is pointing up. The Cowboys can look at the deal the Packers gave dual-threat back Aaron Jones in 2021 (four years, $48MM) as an example of a good contract for a multipurpose back. The organization’s history with re-tagging players should also point to Pollard aiming for $22MM-plus in guarantees, but with no back earning between $7MM and $12MM on average, both Pollard and the team have interesting decisions to make in the coming days. Unlike Schultz’s 2022 tag period, however, updates have been scarce regarding Pollard talks.
The least discussed of the four negotiations involving franchise-tagged players, Evan Engram‘s Jaguars situation still offers intrigue. The Jags have until July 17 to strike a deal with their starting tight end, or he will play a second straight season on a one-year contract — this one worth $11.35MM.
Jacksonville initially signed the former first-round pick on a higher-end “prove it” pact, giving the ex-Giant a one-year deal worth $9MM. After a rocky New York tenure, Engram showed value in Jacksonville by setting a Jags single-season tight end record with 766 receiving yards. Considering how difficult it has been for this franchise to find tight end production in recent years, Engram has a case to command a deal near the top tier at his position.
On the whole, the tight end position is undervalued. Travis Kelce has been the constant receiving presence during the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes era, and the future Hall of Famer helped power the team to another Super Bowl despite the trade of Tyreek Hill. George Kittle may be the league’s most complete tight end, and he has been vital to the Kyle Shanahan-era 49ers’ offensive success both aerially and on the ground. Neither star earns more than $15MM per year. Darren Waller‘s $17MM-per-year contract tops the tight end market, further complicating matters due to the new Giant’s recent injury trouble. Sixteen wideouts earn more than every tight end, contrasting one pass-catching position’s booming market and another’s stagnancy.
The tight end market being out of step with the position’s value may affect current and future negotiations, as Engram is coming off a better year compared to Waller. The Ole Miss alum teamed with fellow Jaguar newcomers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones to form a productive arsenal around the ascending Trevor Lawrence. In addition to his regular-season numbers, Engram totaled 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs.
Both Dawson Knox and David Njoku signed for at least $13MM last year. Given Engram’s first-year production in Jacksonville, it should be expected he is targeting a deal north of those authorized by the Bills and Browns. Considering Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews are signed to $14.25MM- and $14MM-AAV contracts, it would seem Engram and the Jags could find common ground. A 2024 Engram tag would be worth $13.62MM, but neither Knox nor Njoku secured $20MM guaranteed. The second tag price is assuredly a major factor for Engram; only three veteran tight ends (Andrews, Kittle, Hunter Henry) commanded guarantees of at least $25MM.
Njoku benefited by signing a long-term deal weeks after being tagged, while fellow tag recipients Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki endured down seasons. This led to disappointing 2023 paydays. Engram will need to consider this as well, though he has both made more cash than the ex-Cowboys and Dolphins tight ends — due to his first-round contract and 2022 Jaguars deal — and holds a clear role in Doug Pederson‘s offense. Lawrence’s climb also stands to benefit his top tight end.
Engram has said he wants to stay in Jacksonville, while GM Trent Baalkeexpressed optimism for a long-term agreement as well. But the sides were not believed to be especially close on terms weeks after the tag emerged. Engram being set for his age-29 season also complicates contract talks, but a three- or four-year deal should still cover prime years for the veteran. The Jags whiffed on a big-ticket Julius Thomas signing in 2015 and were unable to generate much from their tight end spot between then and the Engram contract. The Jags did, however, let left tackle Cam Robinson play on the tag in 2021. And Engram’s age and inconsistent past are likely factors the team is considering while determining if an extension or a second rental year will transpire.
Last year provided a notable uptick for the 6-foot-3 pass catcher, who saw injuries and inconsistency plague him in New York. After a 722-yard rookie season, Engram picked up a Pro Bowl nod with a 654-yard 2020 slate. Engram was not particularly reliable during the other three years of his rookie deal. After a 2021 season in which the Giants bottomed out following a Daniel Jones neck injury, Big Blue’s new regime let the Jerry Reese-era draftee walk.
Lawrence will be tied to a rookie contract in 2023, but the former No. 1 overall pick becomes extension-eligible in January. The Jags also added Calvin Ridley‘s fifth-year option salary ($11.12MM) to their payroll. Extending Engram would give the team more 2023 cap room, but with neither he nor Ridley signed beyond 2023, big-picture decisions loom. Kirk’s $18MM-per-year deal runs through 2025; Jones’ $8MM-AAV accord goes through 2024. With this being the rare pass-catching corps without a rookie contract in the starting mix, how the Jaguars proceed with this position group will be worth following.
Potential complications here pale in comparison to what is happening leaguewide at running back. While that issue clouds the talks with the three tagged backs — Barkley, Jacobs, Tony Pollard — Engram should have a clearer path to securing an extension by next month’s deadline.
Evan Engramremains absent from the beginning of the Jaguars’ offseason program amidst talks on a long-term deal. The veteran tight end is currently scheduled to play on the franchise tag, but a multi-year agreement could be coming soon.
Jacksonville used the tag ($11.35MM) on Engram last month to ensure he would remain in the fold for at least one season after a career-best 2022 campaign. The former Giants first-rounder recorded 766 yards and four touchdowns on 73 catches in his debut Jaguars season, making the team’s one-year, $9MM flier on him a worthwhile investment. Engram is now due a raise either on the one-year tender, or a longer-term pact to be agreed upon in the coming weeks or months.
It was reported in March, however, that the two parties were not close to finalizing an extension. Engram would rank ninth in the league in terms of AAV if he were to play out the upcoming season on the tag, but his production (both in the regular season and playoffs) and rapport with quarterback Trevor Lawrence could help him move higher up that list on a new deal. At 28, he should be able to replicate his success from last season for at least the short-term if the inconsistency which dogged his New York tenure were to be avoided.
“There’s up and downs as you go through the process and you’re just trying to come to — a common goal here is to get him signed,” general manager Trent Baalke recently said on the subject of contract talks with Engram. “I think we’re trending that direction, but we’re not there yet. We’ll continue to work to get him signed to a long-term extension and hopefully we can get that done” (h/t Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk).
Jacksonville currently sits at $14.8MM in cap space, and a new Engram contract could lower his hit on the team’s 2023 cap sheet. The parties can continue negotiating until July 17, but urgency could increase if his absence from the team lingers deeper into the offseason. If progress continues to be made as Baalke suggests, however, a deal keeping Engram in Duval County beyond 2023 could be on the horizon.
The Jaguars have, as expected, had a quiet offseason so far. Retaining key members of the 2022 squad which went on a surprising playoff run has been the team’s priority, something which resulted in the franchise tag being used on tight end Evan Engram.
That move came as little surprise, after contract talks didn’t yield a multi-year deal before the tag deadline earlier in the month. Negotiations can continue on that front until mid-July, but much progress apparently remains to be made in the coming weeks. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports that the two sides “weren’t particularly close” to finalizing a new contract before the deadline.
Engram, 28, came to Jacksonville last offseason on a one-year, $9MM contract. That proved to be a wise move for both parties, as the former Giant put up career-highs in catches (73) and yards (766) in the regular season. He remained productive in the playoffs, recording 124 yards and a touchdown on 12 postseason receptions. After the season, the former first-rounder confirmed that mutual interest exists for a long-term contract to result from the success of his debut season.
The tight end tag cost ($11.35MM) in 2023 made Engram a logical recipient of the one-year contract. He likely would have been able to command a sizeable pact on the open market as arguably the top option at his position, but Jacksonville will now have him for at least one more season regardless of how talks proceed. The AFC South champions have an intriguing receiver tandem in place with Christian Kirkand trade acquisition Calvin Ridleyat the top of the depth chart, but little in the way of experienced tight ends aside from Engram.
The Jaguars currently have just over $10MM in cap space, a figure which places them mid-pack in the league in terms of flexibility. Part of that will need to be kept aside to sign their draft class, but it could allow them to absorb the cap hit on a new Engram contract if one can be worked out by the summer. For that to take place, though, the two sides will need to make headway compared to where things currently stand on the negotiation front.
MARCH 6: The Jaguars announced on Monday, to little surprise at this point, that they have indeed tagged Engram. He will not reach the open market for the second straight offseason, and will remain in place for at least 2023 on a Jacksonville offense which will also welcome Calvin Ridleyinto the fold in the fall.
MARCH 2, 12:14pm: A tag will happen if the sides cannot agree on a long-term deal, but NFL.com’s Cameron Wolfe notes the sides still plan to negotiate ahead of Tuesday’s deadline (Twitter link). Teams have until 3pm CT Tuesday to apply tags to players.
This is a logical choice, with the tight end tag being the third-lowest figure this year. It will cost the Jags $11.35MM to give Engram the one-year tender/placeholder. Engram has said he wants to stay in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars are optimistic they will be able to hammer out a deal. This move buys them time. They will have until July 15 to work out an extension with Engram, who is going into his age-29 season.
Jacksonville had until March 7 to fire off this transaction. Although GM Trent Baalke said right tackle Jawaan Taylor was also a tag candidate, that move never added up compared to the Engram call. It would have cost the Jags $18.2MM to tag Taylor. Considering Cam Robinson is signed to a top-eight left tackle contract, putting that number on the payroll would have been challenging for the team.
For Engram, this cements a midcareer breakthrough effort. Having languished on mostly poor Giants offenses during his first five seasons, Engram signed a one-year, $9MM pact with the Jags in March 2022. The “prove it” deal paid off for both parties. Engram ended the season with a Jags tight end-record 766 receiving yards, and he continued his production in the playoffs to help the team to the divisional round.
While a host of players have been tagged in the season following their fifth-year option campaign, Engram is the rare player to be tagged two years after his option year. The 2017 first-rounder played out his option year in New York. This tag, which could well lead to a long-term deal, will mean the Ole Miss product will have collected more than $26MM over the past three seasons. Not bad for a tight end who has battled injuries and inconsistency. Ahead of his one-year Jags pact, Engram totaled just 408 yards in 15 Giants games.
It would behoove the Jags to work out a long-term accord with Engram. Their pass catcher payroll is filling up. They now have an Engram tag and Calvin Ridley‘s fifth-year option ($10.9MM) on the books. Both Christian Kirk and Zay Jones are on veteran contracts — $18MM and $8MM per year, respectively — though the Jags restructuring both helped create enough cap space to unholster this Engram tag. This locks in an intriguing quartet ahead of Trevor Lawrence‘s third season. The Jags are still waiting on Ridley’s reinstatement from his gambling suspension, but that is expected to take place.
Thursday’s Jags decision also stands to benefit two tight ends tagged last year. Unless the Cowboys tag Dalton Schultz, his free agency prospects look a bit better. Ditto Mike Gesicki, whom the Dolphins tagged ahead of an ill-fitting season in Mike McDaniel‘s offense. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency March 15. Gesicki and Schultz are expected to relocate soon after. Neither was able to work out a deal before last summer’s extension deadline, though David Njoku did so with the Browns. Cleveland gave Njoku, chosen six spots behind Engram in the 2017 draft, a four-year, $54.75MM deal. Engram should be able to target a contract in the Njoku-Dawson Knox range; the Bills tight end signed for just less ($13MM per year) last summer.
As the Jaguars transition from spending wildly in 2022 to a 2023 free agency period featuring little action in terms of outside hires, they are going down to the wire with two priority players.
The Jags’ interest in re-signingEvan Engram has been on the radar for a while, but Jawaan Taylor is also a keeper candidate for the resurgent team. GM Trent Baalke confirmed Engram and Taylor talks are ongoing, as the Combine annually ignites discussions between teams and key free agents.
Engram has joined Taylor in indicating he would like to stay in Jacksonville, and NFL.com’s James Palmer points to optimism a deal will be reached (Twitter link). Particularly with Engram, this will be a time-sensitive matter. The Jags have not ruled out tagging either Engram or Taylor, but with the tight end tag checking in at barely $11MM, Engram profiles as the likelier candidate to be cuffed. It would cost the Jags $18.2MM to tag Taylor.
“I think with Jawaan and Evan, I don’t want to speak for them, they know how we feel about them, and I think we know how they feel about us, and there’s a win-win in there somewhere. We’ve just got to get to that,” Baalke said, via the Florida Times-Union’s Demetrius Harvey. “We’ve got a nice window here before free agency starts, and our goal is to try to close those deals within that window.”
Given Engram’s interest in coming back, it should not be considered a lock the Jaguars will lose the seventh-year veteran if they pass on tagging him by the March 7 deadline. But that is the failsafe point for the Jags, who gave the ex-Giants first-rounder a one-year deal worth $9MM in 2022 and saw him produce a single-season franchise record for tight end receiving yards (766). Engram, 28, staying would further strengthen Jacksonville’s receiving corps, which has Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Calvin Ridley under contract.
Taylor’s path is a bit more complicated. The Jags already tagged left tackle Cam Robinson twice, eventually extending him last year. The tackle landscape reveals the either/or decisions teams have made recently regarding payments; clubs with big-ticket left tackle deals on their respective payrolls have not doled out much money to right tackles. Robinson’s $17.9MM-per-year pact ranks seventh at left tackle. The Jags have Walker Little as a possible option to succeed Taylor, who would be poised to do well on the market, with dependable O-linemen being coveted commodities annually.
Robinson’s meniscus tear, however, clouds the Jags’ plans here. Robinson would tentatively be on track to return by Week 1, but Doug Pederson confirmed his potential unavailability factors into the Taylor talks. Taylor, 25, has never missed a game as a pro.
The Jags do have more money to work with as they navigate these negotiations now. They recently restructured the contracts of Kirk, Jones, Brandon Scherff and Foye Oluokun, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitterlinks). Altogether, this created $36MM-plus in cap space. Jacksonville has boosted its total to $16.1MM, as of Wednesday afternoon.
The team has re-signed Roy Robertson-Harris to a three-year, $30MM deal, keeping the D-line starter off the market. That contract is already factored into the team’s updated payroll. Engram and/or Taylor may follow suit; each would be free to negotiate with other teams beginning March 13.