Trent Baalke walked to the front of the room and chuckled before taking his seat in front of a microphone. “Sorry I’m late.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars general manager addressed local reporters 18 days after his team’s season ended. It was worth the wait. Here’s what happened in the first 10 minutes alone:
Baalke addressed “false narratives” of a power struggle right off the bat; clarified “Coach owns the staff” and is “held responsible” for coaching hires; claimed “I don’t live with regrets” when asked about retaining 21 of 22 starters from 2022; questioned “Who are you?” in regards to the team’s identity under Doug Pederson; cited “onboarding” and “development” when his recent draft history was mentioned; and doubled down on Dawuane Smoot, K’Lavon Chaisson, and “a young man that we had a vision for” (Yasir Abdullah) as reasoning for not signing a veteran pass rusher.
You can find more observations from the press conference here, but I want to focus on perhaps the most damaging quote of the event.
When asked about impending free agent Josh Allen, who broke the franchise’s single-season sack record this year, Baalke responded, “Josh will be a Jaguar.”
How close is the team to finalizing a deal? “Very far. Haven’t started. Those negotiations will start.”
Could a deal happen quickly? “Yeah, I’d love to say yes. I know Josh wants to be here, I know we want him here. Can we come to a number that works for everybody? That’s the key. I respect that. Like I said last year with Evan’s situation, you got to respect these guys that put themselves in this position. They work hard, they deserve to make good money. What that good means to them could be different than what it means to us. We just got to come together, sit down at the table and work things out.”
Might the franchise tag be in play? “I’m not going to commit to anything right now relative to the franchise tag. But at the same token, Josh Allen is going to be a Jaguar next year.”
Those last two words mean something. Ian got the hint.
Anyone who knows how Baalke conducts business had to have known this was coming. The Jaguars designated Evan Engram, and Cam Robinson the year prior, as franchise tag players before eventually coming to terms on a contract extension before the season began. Neither Engram nor Robinson signed the franchise tag -- it was just used by Jacksonville as a way to extend the negotiating window for a new long-term deal.
Baalke has also long been opposed to negotiating contracts during the season. That rule is debatable, but it isn’t a problem. The problem is that the season ended 19 days ago now and Josh Allen’s camp still has not heard from the Jaguars general manager about a new deal.
On Thursday, Jaguars G.M. Trent Baalke talked to reporters about Josh Allen's contract situation. Josh Allen's camp would prefer that Baalke talk to them instead, given that there have been no negotiations. https://t.co/S3s0yQAwE2— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 26, 2024
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported less than 24 hours after Baalke’s presser, “Allen’s camp is not happy that Baalke would take time to talk to the media about Allen before taking time to Allen or his agent about Allen. Allen’s camp has been ready, willing, and waiting to engage in negotiations.”
“...From Allen’s perspective, Baalke is currently playing the role of Dick Dastardly. The only way to change that is for Baalke to talk not to the media about Allen, but to Allen about Allen.”
According to the report, the star pass rusher made it clear he wishes to stay in Jacksonville. “Of course I want to get [a new contract],” Allen told Florio in November. “That’s up to the high man. I just come in and play for my people.”
“I just play football,” is what Allen told reporters during final locker room availability in January. “My agent does all that type of negotiating. We’ll talk when we need to talk, but at this time, right now, I’m worried about getting my body back right, spending time with my family, and keep focusing on what I’m going to do next year.”
“...I’ve always just focused on football and did my part and if I can do that then everything will take care of itself. So the business is the business, we’ll have conversations down the road, but at this very moment, I’m trying to get through this situation and grow from it.”
The conversations haven’t come down the road as soon as Allen’s camp had hoped.
The former 7th overall pick sent the fan base into a light frenzy last summer when he skipped *voluntary* team workouts to “prioritize” himself. Whatever he did last year (onions, apparently) seemed to work, as Allen enjoyed a career season and established himself as a premier sack artist.
Now, folks shouldn’t worry about whether Allen will show up for voluntary practices in 2024.
Worry about whether he’ll show up and play for the team at all.
He didn’t show up last year ti start as a warning shot! Hello— Dilla (@E_Dilla) January 25, 2024