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Evan Engram wants to return to Jags on long-term deal, open to tag: 'The interest is there on both sides'

Evan Engram is set to be the top tight end to hit free agency this offseason. Coming off the best season of his career in his first year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Engram hopes to remain in Duval on a long-term contract.

Engram told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday he believes the feeling is mutual.

"The conversations we've had are very positive, he (agent Mike McCartney) has a great relationship with the Jags, so hopefully something gets done and I think it's mutual," he said. "We haven't had too many conversations yet, but the interest is there on both sides for me to come back, and obviously, I would love to come back as well. But like you said, it's a business. I felt like I've put a lot of great things on film, had a lot of great results this year, and I was a big part of helping my team win. So, when you do that at the pass-catcher position -- you have a lot of highlight plays, and you're doing something special with the football -- those guys get taken care of financially wise."

Engram pointing out that he's a pass-catching tight end -- as opposed to a blocker -- is no accident. He's right. Pass catchers get paid, and blockers mostly get ignored.

The former first-round pick of the New York Giants, Engram inked a one-year, $9 million prove-it deal in Jacksonville last season. He proved under coach Doug Pederson that he could be a playmaker with a coaching staff that knows how to utilize his talent and a top-tier QB in Trevor Lawrence.

The 28-year-old generated career highs with 73 catches for 766 yards and added four touchdowns in 2022. Yes, there was still the occasional drop that plagued his time in New York, but Engram raised his catch percentage to 74.5%; he averaged 61.1% in five years with Big Blue.

Engram became a key cog in the Jags' playoff-bound offense. In the final seven games, including playoffs, the TE averaged 6.1 catches, 72 receiving yards and 11.7 yards per catch, and scored three TDs. In the wild-card win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Engram led Jacksonville with seven catches for 93 yards and one touchdown.

Earlier this offseason, Jags general manager Trent Baalke noted the team wanted to bring Engram back.

With both sides hoping for a long-term deal, it shouldn't be that difficult for a deal to be hammered out. If, however, things get sticky, the Jags could use the franchise tag on the tight end to ensure at least one more season. The TE tag costs about $11.3 million in 2023, so it's not prohibitive. Last year, we saw several tight ends -- particularly the pass-catching ones like Dalton Schultz, David Njoku and Mike Gesicki -- get tagged to ensure they didn't hit a market fiending for those traits.

Engram noted he isn't worried about possibly getting tagged.

"It's a hypothetical, so it could happen, it could not," he said. "If that happens, I think that would be a place-holder to get something done. That's just the way I feel about it. If it does come to that, there will be conversations I have with my team, and we'll move forward from there. If that does happen, I'm going to be blessed either way. We'll figure something out long-term that both sides will be happy with."

The Jags' pass-catching corps made a big leap in 2022, and getting Calvin Ridley (pending reinstatement) adds another playmaker to a group needing speed. Losing Engram would be a big blow to the progress made, so don't expect Jacksonville to let him out of the door easily. At the very least, we'd expect him to get tagged closer to the March 7 deadline if no long-term solution arises.

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