Dangerous assumption No. 1: The Jaguars see DE Arden Key as a backup.
Strong linebacker/edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson is a bust. Sure, that’s an assumption of sorts, but not a dangerous one. So, it’s also not a stretch to think the Jaguars are looking for a new starter at outside linebacker. Most observers believe that starter will come in the upcoming NFL draft, possibly in the form of Aiden Hutchinson or Travon Walker at number one overall. Even if the Jags select an offensive tackle with the top pick as some mocks still suggest, certainly the team will land an edge rusher at the top of the second… won’t they?
Well… maybe. The Jaguars were tied for 27th in the league in sacks last year, so the reasoning for bolstering the pass rush is sound. However, the Jaguars went on an epic spending spree in free agency, including the acquisition of defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi and Arden Key. Fatukasi is known more as a run-stuffer, but some think he has interior pass-rush upside. More notably, Key blossomed last year with 6.5 sacks, earning himself a $7 million contract from the Jaguars.
$7 million is not chump change, folks. Not even in the NFL, where contracts are exploding. While his exact role has not been specified, the amount of money he will earn does not necessarily say, “rotational, situational pass rusher.” It might, but it also might say, “starter.” Look no further than Tyler Shatley’s contract for verification. Shatley signed a two-year deal for a total value of $6.8 million with only $2.35 million guaranteed. And yet, he is currently expected to start with the departure of Brandon Linder.
Key has demonstrated remarkable versatility further clouding exactly what his role with the Jaguars will be next year. But, he has played outside linebacker in his career, so it isn’t a stretch to think his primary position will be standing up as an edge defender. If that’s the case, the Jags may have reduced the need to draft an edge defender at No. 1.