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Jaguars GM Trent Baalke addresses offseason plans for QB Trevor Lawrence, WR Calvin Ridley, LB Josh Allen

The Jacksonville Jaguars might be coming off a disappointing finish to the 2023 season, but general manager Trent Baalke gave no reason to think two of the franchise's biggest stars are going anywhere.

In his season-ending address with the media, Baalke assured Jaguars fans that pass rusher Josh Allen and quarterback Trevor Lawrence are very much in the team's plans for 2024 -- and likely beyond.

Allen, 26, is a free agent who racked up 17.5 sacks, which tied for second in the NFL this past regular season. He'd be one of the most coveted free agents on the open market, but Baalke appeared to shut that possibility down quickly.

"Yeah, Josh will be a Jaguar," Baalke said.

The Jaguars currently have less than $12 million in salary-cap space, via Over The Cap, but could apply the franchise tag on Allen if needed. Interestingly, for all of Baalke's confidence in getting a deal done, the two sides aren't at all close to one because they have yet to open contract talks.

"Very far. We haven't started," Baalke said. "Those negotiations will start."

Baalke believes the feeling is mutual to keep Allen there.

"I know Josh wants to be here, and I know we want him here," Baalke said. "Can we come to a number that works for everybody? That's the key.

"... You have to respect these guys that put themselves in this position. They work hard, they deserve the good money. … We just have to come together and sit down at the table and work things out."

The same is possible for Lawrence, able to sign a contract extension now that he's accrued three NFL seasons. Baalke didn't express the same level of immediacy with getting an extension done with Lawrence, as the calendar clearly shows Allen as the more pressing, immediate need.

But Baalke made sure to emphasize that Lawrence -- even with some regression in his play last season -- remained a franchise priority.

"As far as Trevor and the long-term relationship with this team, there's no doubt in that," Baalke said. "We are going to get something done (at) the appropriate time."

Baalke suggested that Lawrence remains in the developmental stage of his career.

"I think Trevor had another learning year, right? Like how we all do when we are a third-year guy in this league," Baalke said. "I think there are some areas where he made great strides in."

Baalke pointed to Lawrence's four injuries this season -- a shoulder, a knee, an ankle and a concussion -- as reasons for the QB's struggles. To that end, Baalke said that getting "bigger, stronger, more physical in the trenches" was a priority this offseason that should help the offensive efficiency.

"We have to do a better job of keeping (Lawrence) safe and protected," Baalke said. "He has to do a better job of protecting himself. … You know when your quarterback has (four injuries) all in one year, that's alarming. So, we have to work to improve that."

The picture for another key free agent-to-be, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, is less clear. His 2023 production (76 catches, 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns) was in line with his most productive campaigns during his first three seasons. But after missing more than a season and a half while suspended for all of 2022, there also was a lack of chemistry with Lawrence at times, as Ridley caught a career-low 55.9% of his targets.

Baalke said he wants Ridley back, even if his confidence in getting a deal done didn't sound as firm as it was when asked about Allen.

"Calvin did some good things. I love Calvin Ridley. He's all ball," Baalke said. "You guys and gals that were able to see at practice that he loves to practice, loves to play and loves the game. When you bring in somebody in that hasn't been a part of football for over a year and a half, you have to knock the rust off. He did that and at times who he was and what he used to and what he can be.

"The sky's the limit. He's only going to get better because of the way he works. When you love something as much as he loves football, you can't help but get better."

Baalke did indicate that the Jaguars would attempt to bring Ridley back next season but admitted it wasn't a certainty.

"We would love to have Calvin back," Baalke said. "We are going to work through that. What that means is, I don't know right now."

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