3/2 Update: The Jaguars are planning to place the franchise tag on tight end Evan Engram, per Adam Schefter. He is coming off a great season where he showed early rapport with quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Engram experienced a career resurgence, and another solid year could result in a lucrative long-term deal.
Jaguars are expected to place the franchise tag on TE Evan Engram, per source. The tight end franchise tag is $11.345 million.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 2, 2023
As Evan Engram enters his seventh NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars are left with the looming question of franchise tagging their dynamic tight end. Engram, who is a former first-round draft pick of the New York Giants out of Ole Miss, is coming off a year in 2022 where he set his career-highs in both receptions (73) and receiving yards (766). Still, does that type of performance warrant a franchise tag, or perhaps a more lucrative deal?
NFL teams were able to start tagging players starting on Tuesday, February 21st with a deadline of March 7th.
Will Evan Engram receive the franchise tag in 2023?
For a player like Evan Engram, a tight end who spends the majority of his snaps detached from the line of scrimmage (more similar to the wideout/flanker position), he will likely seek “wide receiver-type” money. Considering the rapport he built last season with Jacksonville’s franchise quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, it's possible the Jaguars retain Engram’s services for the next few seasons. But considering Jacksonville’s current state (and that of their relative competition in the AFC South), it may make more financial sense to slap the franchise tag on Engram.
For the sake of clarity, the franchise tag is a one-year contract that teams can use on one player set to hit unrestricted free agency. Each team can use the franchise tag once per offseason during a designated time period before free agency. The franchise tagged salary is then generated by averaging the salaries of the top-five highest paid players at that specific position. For tight ends franchise tagged last season, that number was set to a modest $10.931 million (compared to $29.703 million on the books if franchise tagging a quarterback in 2022). That number will inflate in 2023 to somewhere near $11.5 million.
Now consider what Jacksonville has done with their franchise tags in recent years, using it on veteran offensive tackle Cam Robinson each of the past two seasons (for a cap hit of $16.662 million in 2022). If the Jags move that tag over to Evan Engram before the upcoming deadline of March 7th, they will be getting a trusted player for relatively cheap. Engram may not be the fear-striking threat that other NFL tight ends Travis Kelce (AAV: $14.3 million), Darren Waller (AAV: $17 million) and George Kittle (AAV: $15 million) are, but for less than $12 million, Engram can be a valued member of a unit that has other weapons around him.
In 2022-23, Engram was a key cog in Trevor Lawrence’s offense under Doug Pederson. A team that hit their stride later in the season, Jacksonville wound up winning the AFC South title for the first time since 2017. It may be wise to keep this unit together, while also banking on contributions from wide receiver Christian Kirk and running back Travis Etienne.
With most starters returning in 2023-24, the Jacksonville Jaguars are currently +2800 to win Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas (tied with the Detroit Lions for 10th-shortest odds) at DraftKings Sportsbook, while also showing a price of +1600 to win the AFC next season (eighth-shortest odds in the conference, just behind the Miami Dolphins at +1500). Taking into account quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s progression over last season, franchise tagging tight end Evan Engram could go a long way toward the Jaguars cashing an advantageous future play!