By Jeff Moeller
JACKSONVILLE (Florida Sports Wire) – Evan Engram is at the height of his game.
The 28-year-old tight end inked a three-year, 41.4 million deal with $28 million guaranteed to avoid signing the franchise tag. In one season, Engram has washed away the stains and from his speckled past in New York.
He began a focal point of the offense season, and a valuable option for quarterback Trevor Lawrence with his career-high 73 receptions for 766 yards with four touchdowns in helping the Jaguars back to the postseason.
Now, Engram will be counted on to see what he can do for an encore. The bar will be high.
He has the luxury of having receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kikr back with him to form a trifecta this season instead of the foursome they had last season with Marvin Jones. They all made Lawrence’s life easier.
This season, former Falcon All-Pro Calvin Ridley will replace the departed Jones in the receiver rotation, and his early reports point to him regaining his former status after his year-long suspension last season.
That’s more good news for Engram, who won’t have to endure the pressures he once did with the Giants.
In 2017, Engram was targeted as the new prototype tight end as the number one pick of the Giants from Ole’ Miss.
The Giants were coming off an 11-5 record the previous year and a trip to the Wild Card. Expectations were high, and Engram was going to be a generation player. He was a tight end who had size and speed and could line up in the slot.
Engram caught 64 passes for 727 yards with six touchdowns in his rookie season, but he never reached those numbers again in the next four seasons.
Instead, his inconsistency – mainly due to dropped passes – and rash of injuries created a villainous role for him, one that usually doesn’t have a long one in the Big Apple. The chorus of constant boo birds in his final season of 2021 were the finishing touch.
Engram went South and found a new home in Jacksonville last season, and the jury was out. Could new head coach Doug Pederson weave him into the offense like he did with tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert during his Philadelphia days? In this case, statistics didn’t lie.
He is finally living up to the expectations of seven years ago. Engram finished fourth among tight ends in receiving yards, and he set a franchise record for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end in a single season.
He and his receiving mates along with running back Travis Etienne joined Lawrence in Scottsdale, Arizona, as a prep for the team’s upcoming training camp next week. His previous franchise tag situation prevented him from working out with his teammates.
“We actually were just in Arizona getting some work in together and everybody looks so good,” beamed Engram recently on Jaguars.com. “We didn’t miss a beat.”
The Jags certainly are counting on Engram raising the bar without any hurdles in his path.
Jaguars Notes: The club placed OL Ben Bartch on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)…….the Jaguars have re-signed OLB Dawuane Smoot. Additionally, the team released DL Nick Thurman. Smoot was originally drafted by Jacksonville in the third round (68th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has appeared in 87 games with 17 starts in six seasons, all with the Jaguars. Since his rookie year in 2017, Smoot has posted 83 total tackles, 60 quarterback hits 22.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. From 2019-22, Smoot is one of 14 NFL players to post at least 5.0 sacks every year. In 2022, he recorded 21 total tackles, 5.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 14 games. In Week 16 of the 2022 season, Smoot tore his Achilles against the New York Jets.