Jaguars GM Trent Baalke: Arden Key ‘has proven to be a leader’

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Arden Key #49, Josh Allen #41 OLB Travon Walker #44 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Arden Key #49, Josh Allen #41 OLB Travon Walker #44 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] /

Defensive end Arden Key was a hot commodity in free agency after logging 6.5 sacks as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. He ultimately signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. So far, the former LSU Tiger is everything the Jags bargained for and then some.

Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Doug Pederson met with the local media after the August 30 deadline to reduce the roster to 53 players and they touched on several things, including Key’s impact and leadership.

“Arden’s a unique type of player”, Baalke said. “He came into this league as a fairly highly drafted guy. He struggled early in his career, and it’s a great lesson for young players. This league isn’t for everybody and it takes a lot of sacrifice to get where you want. And Arden was willing to pay the sacrifice and it led to a good season last year in San Francisco”.

Baalke went on to praise Key and talked about his impact since arriving in Jacksonville. Moreover, he hopes the Jaguars can keep him beyond 2022.

"When we looked at that tape, what we felt he could bring, the versatility, the inside pass rush, the ability to play on the end, very smart player, a player that’s proven to be a leader. It’s been a very positive transition for us and someone that we hope we can keep around here."

A third-round selection by the Las Vegas Raiders in 2018, Key didn’t do much of note in his first three NFL seasons, appearing in 37 games with 10 starts and registering a measly three sacks. He was released last year and promptly joined the Niners, where he enjoyed a career revival.

Arden Key has proven his worth with the Jaguars

Key was dubbed an offseason steal during his short stint in The Bay Area, and there’s a chance he can do the same in Jacksonville. The Georgia native had a productive training camp and showed in the preseason the versatility Trent Baalke talked about.

On 32 defensive snaps, Key logged two sacks and five total pressures. He also earned a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 83.8. But his impact goes beyond the football field, as he’s transitioning into a leader for the Jaguars.

Not long ago, Key told Mia O’Brien of 1010 XL that he might not have been ready in the past but he’s now ready to take on a leadership role, which echoes Baalke’s comments to the media.

While Key has yet to play a snap in the regular season, he’s proving to be everything Baalke said he is.

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