Jaguars decision to sign WR Christian Kirk earns dubious distinction

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Jacksonville Jaguars made upgrades to several position groups in free agency but they spent big to do so. While it will be a while before the signings can be accurately asses, the fact that they gave Christian Kirk a four-year deal worth $72 million has earned them a dubious distinction.

Alex Kay of Bleacher Report recently ranked the worst five moves of the 2022 NFL offseason and the Jags’ decision to sign Kirk made the cut. Kay argues that the Jaguars needed to get Trevor Lawrence more weapons this offseason but believes they paid an “absurdly high cost” for the former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver.

"That’s an absurdly high cost for a four-year veteran who has yet to post a 1,000-yard receiving season or catch 80 balls in a single year. While Kirk is coming off arguably his best performance as a pro in 2021—he reeled in 77 of his 103 targets for 982 yards and five scores while playing in a crowded Arizona Cardinals receiving corps—he’s now making top-tier money. The deal Kirk signed, which pays him an average of $18 million in base salary, is far greater than the $11.8 million AAV that Spotrac initially projected the wideout to earn on his next contract."

Kay goes on to say that Kirk’s yearly average is higher than the ones most 2022 free-agent wide receivers got and wonder if the decision will come back to haunt the Jaguars if they are ever in need of financial flexibility.

Signing Christian Kirk wasn’t bad but the money the Jaguars paid might be.

You can spin it around the way you like but there’s no doubt the Jags paid a premium for Kirk. In an ideal world, they would have signed him for a four-year contract worth $60 million but Jacksonville really needed to improve Trevor Lawrence’s supporting cast and might not have had better alternatives.

The way the contract it’s structured, it will be cost-prohibitive to move on from Kirk if he underperforms. If the team’s brass wants to move on from him next offseason, it would have a dead cap hit of $30 million, via Over the Cap. Similarly, Jacksonville would free up $11 million in cap space if they cut him in 2023 but it would come with a dead cap hit of $10 million. Even in the last year of the contract, the dead money is $5 million, so the Jags had better hope it works out.

Having said that, if you shuffle words around, you can make everything sound bad, and this holds true for the Jaguars and the contract they gave to Kirk. They are coming off a 3-14 season and they had won a combined 15 games over the last four years. They simply weren’t an attractive destination for free agents in spite of the presence of Lawrence and head coach Doug Pederson. Thus, they had to offer retail compensation in order to lure players to sign with them.

Desperation pushes people and NFL teams to make questionable decision-making but when you leave aside the money factor, signing Kirk wasn’t a bad move. If he doesn’t live up to expectations and doesn’t become the playmaker the Jaguars hoped, they will then deserve all the flak they’re currently getting. Until then, they should get the benefit of the doubt.

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