National Football League
Jaguars lock in cornerstone Josh Allen. Is Trevor Lawrence next?
National Football League

Jaguars lock in cornerstone Josh Allen. Is Trevor Lawrence next?

Published Apr. 10, 2024 1:39 p.m. ET

There's more quarterback talent than ever before in the NFL, particularly in the AFC. And no other division in the league has more upside at the position than the AFC South. The Texans, Jaguars, Colts and Titans all have young, rising quarterbacks under age 25.

So it's paramount that the franchises not only build around them offensively, but also do what's necessary defensively to slow down the QBs who play for their rivals. 

With that in mind, Jacksonville made a no-brainer, long-term investment on Wednesday. 

In agreeing to terms with star edge rusher Josh Allen on a five-year, $150 deal that includes $88 million guaranteed, the largest contract in franchise history, the Jaguars took a major step toward assuring that they'll have a competitive pass rush for the foreseeable future. 


Allen, who had a team-record 17.5 sacks last season, combined with former No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker to lead all NFL duos with 27.5 sacks in 2023. Factoring in that Walker should continue to develop (he went from 3.5 sacks as a rookie to 10 last season), a new threat from the interior in free-agent acquisition Arik Armstead (the veteran 49ers defensive tackle signed a three-year, $43.5 deal last month) and a defensive-line specialist in new coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the Jaguars should compete with the Texans for the best pass rush in the division. 

Health-enabling, the trio of Allen, Walker and Armstead could play together for at least the next two seasons. They form the foundation of a defensive line that should also be strong against the run. The Jags struggled to defend the rush late last season, and that played a key role in the team's collapse. 

Allen had a career-high 49 stops in 2023. And of the 62 edge rushers who played at least 500 snaps last season, he ranked just outside the top third with a 5.8% stop rate, according to Next Gen Stats. 

On top of extending Allen and signing Armstead, Jacksonville also extended standout linebacker Foye Oluokun, who has led the NFL in solo tackles in back-to-back seasons. 

"Get him going, hopefully get him to improve," Nielsen said of Allen at his introductory press conference in February. "That's the ultimate goal. If we can just get that much better next year, what does that look like?"

The one critique some may make on Allen's deal, which makes the Pro Bowl outside linebacker the NFL's third-highest paid defensive player in average annual value at $30 million, is the timing. Jacksonville had publicly expressed its desire to keep him, and everyone knew the price to retain him long-term would be a record-setting deal for the franchise. Had a contract with Allen been reached ahead of free agency, Jacksonville could have used the franchise tag on wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who departed in free agency to sign a massive deal with the rival Titans. The consensus is that the team has taken a step back at receiver in losing Ridley. 

But the reality is that contract negotiations aren't so cut-and-dried. There are stipulations beyond average annual value and generic guarantees that take longer to iron out. 

Regardless of how long it took, the fact that an extension has been agreed to ahead of the July deadline is a win. Now, there's no shadow that will linger over the team into training camp. 

And make no mistake about it, this will matter in the Jaguars' locker room. It matters to players when a homegrown star gets paid his worth. It sends a positive message about the organization.

Allen's deal now sets the stage for negotiations with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who's eligible for an extension. His long-term future in Jacksonville becomes the No. 1 priority. The Jags have until May 2 to pick up the fifth-year option in his rookie contract. 

If all goes according to plan, Allen's reign as the highest-paid player in franchise history should be short-lived. 

For now, though, Jacksonville has at least one of its cornerstones locked in for years to come. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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