Wide receiver Christian Kirk was one of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ biggest signings in free agency. They gave the former second-round pick a four-year deal worth $72 million and expect him to be their No. 1 target on offense. Michael DiRocco of ESPN recently explored his potential impact in 2022 and a few scenarios.
ESPN’s NFL Nation recently put together a list of 12 teams that added a No. 1 receiver in the offseason, and why the moves may or may not work. Regarding Kirk, DiRocco points out that he’s the best receiving option in Jacksonville even though he’s not a true number one in the mold of Davante Adams (Las Vegas Raiders), Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams), or Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings).
DiRocco says that the Jags needed to get Trevor Lawrence more weapons in the offseason, which made Kirk, along with Zay Jones, their two receiving targets in free agency. Here’s why DiRocco thinks Kirk’s addition will work:
"Kirk had he best season of his career in 2021 (77 catches for 982 yards), and the Jaguars believe he’s an ascending player. Offensive coordinator Press Taylor moved Kirk around during OTAs, and while Kirk’s best spot is in the slot, the Jaguars can believe he can be effective outside as well. Adding Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram, along with the healthy return of Travis Etienne Jr., gives the Jaguars more playmakers than they’ve had in a while. That should mean teams won’t be able to focus only on Kirk."
On the other hand, DiRocco points out that Kirk has not been a bonafide No. 1 in his first four NFL seasons and wonders if he will be able to handle the pressure of being one in Jacksonville.
Things could go either way for Jaguars WR Christian Kirk in 2022
DiRocco was fair and balanced when assessing Kirk’s potential impact for the Jaguars. Kirk could indeed give Jacksonville’s offense a boost but there’s also a chance he could struggle to deliver as their No.1 receiver.
Working in Kirk’s favor is that he did well last year when DeAndre Hopkins was unavailable. On the other hand, he’s had teammates take pressure off his shoulders. In 2021, it was tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver A.J. Green, in other seasons, it was Larry Fitzgerald and Hopkins himself, so it’s fair to wonder how he will fare as the Jaguars’ receiver on a full-time basis.
Also, Kirk has had a productive training camp. Although he didn’t suit up against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 of the preseason due to an ankle injury, he’s back in the fold and should play against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former Texas A&M Aggie has developed a connection with Trevor Lawrence over the summer and they will put it on display Saturday.
Earlier this year, the Jaguars were criticized for giving Kirk a top-market deal but that no longer seems to be an issue with other wide receivers getting far richer deals over the last few months. Now, the question is whether Kirk will deliver in 2022.