JACKSONVILLE – This is a moment to be savored, and Josh Allen is doing just that.
Allen, the Jaguars' outside linebacker, is participating in the Pro Bowl Games in Orlando this weekend – his second Pro Bowl appearance in five NFL seasons. It's a special honor, guaranteed to no one.
Allen said he's treating it as such.
"It means a lot," he said.
That also means focusing on the present more than the coming weeks.
Allen is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on the March 14 start of the NFL League Year. The Jaguars have the option of applying the franchise tag or signing him to a long-term contract, and General Manager Trent Baalke said last week he expects Allen will be with the Jaguars next season.
"Obviously you want to work things out," Allen said Friday, "but at the end of the day it's a business and that's the tough part about it. You have to be ready for that."
Allen, too, said he hasn't yet focused much on changes to the Jaguars' defense – with former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen hired last week for the same position with the Jaguars, replacing Mike Caldwell, who held the position the last two seasons.
"Right now I'm really not getting into any of that," he said.
What Allen was considering Friday was just what making the Pro Bowl means. He made it once before, following a 10.5 sack-season as a rookie, making that team as an alternate while playing alongside veterans such as Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue.
Allen this season broke Campbell's franchise record for sacks, finishing second in the NFL in the category with 17.5. He was voted to this year's game – and yes, he said, he's appreciating this weekend a bit more as a fifth-year veteran than perhaps he did as a rookie.
"Definitely," he said. "It's a product of handling our business on the field, and you get rewarded when you do such things."
Allen continued, "It's very cool for me, especially being where I am in my career. I wanted this. I wanted to be All-Pro. I wanted to be Defensive Player of the Year. When you play at a high level, you get rewarded."
Allen, too, said his mind remains on continuing to improve – and that his focus beginning this week is to build on the progress he made last season.
"I want to be All-Pro," he said. "I'm not going to say I played this season to go to the Pro Bowl, but I want to be great, so I can be an All-Pro and be Defensive Player of the Year and go to the Super Bowl. It comes with it. When you are one of those guys, it, this opportunity comes with it.
“I'm just blessed to be able to take those next steps in my career and get back to it.” Josh Allen, OLB
The Pro Bowl experience, he said, can build toward that goal.
"This is one of the opportunities and things where you can be around your peers, the best of the best," he said. "You chop it up with them, learn some things, talk about some things. Say, 'Hey, what was your mindset going into this game? How did you feel about rushing against that dude?'
"It's very cool for that. I've been playing against these dudes for five years now, so it's like you build that relationship, that competitive relationship. I got drafted with a lot of these guys, so just knowing them throughout the years, so it's good to build those relationships."
Allen, too, said he expect more moving forward from the duo of himself and second-year outside linebacker Travon Walker. With Walker registering 10 sacks this season, the pair led all NFL duos with 27.5 sacks in 2023.
"I think me and Tray can be the best duo in the National Football League," Allen said. "We were by the sack numbers, but also by just affecting games. When you watch the games, it's him, me, him, me, him, me, tempo, not missing, communicating all through the whole front – tackles for losses … obviously sacks, pressures, hurries … just elevating that to another level.
"I think we can do that a little bit more consistently each week. You look at the whole season and you see we led the league in sacks, but when you look at it again, it's like you do it consistently each week. Each week we want to dominate.
"Now let's see where that total ends up being. There's a lot more in store. I feel like we both haven't reached that mark in our career. There's still room to grow."