The Jacksonville Jaguars entered free agency knowing they needed to surround Trevor Lawrence with a better supporting cast and they weren’t afraid to spend big to do it. On the other hand, they took everyone by surprise when they gave former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract. The signing has gotten mixed reviews due to the amount of money the Jags committed to Kirk but what should they expect from him in 2022?
Analyst James Jones of NFL Media recently talked about wide receivers that changed teams this offseason and how he thinks they will fare in 2022. Kirk was among those he mentioned. Jones notes that he was a “steady player and productive piece of Arizona’s offensive puzzle“. However, he doesn’t think the 2018 second-round pick will be a true No. 1 wide receiver.
"While Kirk’s talented, I don’t think he’s going to be a bona fide No. 1 receiver just because he’s making $18 million per year, as there are a number of other playmakers on Jacksonville’s offense — guys like Marvin Jones Jr., Zay Jones, Evan Engram, James Robinson and Travis Etienne, a first-round pick returning from injury. Kirk should, however, be a reliable and productive playmaker — he caught 74.8 percent of his targets in 2021, fifth-highest among WRs with 100-plus targets — for second-year QB Trevor Lawrence, which will send targets his way."
Kirk never had a 1,000-yard season with the Cardinals but he got close in 2021, catching 77 receptions for 982 yards with five touchdowns. In the three years prior, he hauled in 159 receptions for 1,920 yards and 12 touchdowns. It looks like the Jaguars didn’t take his past production into account when signing him and they instead project him to keep getting better in the upcoming years.
The Jaguars set a high bar for WR Christian Kirk in 2022.
From a player’s perspective, Kirk maximized his value in free agency and aimed to sign the most favorable contract he could get. The Jags willingly gave it to him and should nobody should criticize him for that. Having said that, the team’s brass should be fully aware that they paid a premium for a player that isn’t in the upper echelon of his position. Giving him that kind of contract will raise the expectations for him to perform at a high level and at this point, it’s uncertain whether he will be able to live up to them.
This goes both ways though. Kirk is aware of the expectations surrounding him and the contract he signed and the only thing he can do is play and prove that signing him was the right decision. So what should the Jaguars expect from him? He needs to become a go-to target for Trevor Lawrence and register career highs in both touchdowns, receiving yards, and touchdowns. While those sound like lofty goals, Jacksonville isn’t paying him an average of $18 million per year to be a role player.
The Jaguars need Kirk to make plays, helped them to score points, and step up when they needed him the most in 2022. If they didn’t think he could, they wouldn’t have given him a top-market deal in free agency.