Jaguars free agency: 3 potential candidates for the franchise tag in 2023

Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and owner Shad Khan at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. (Imagn Images photo pool)
Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke and owner Shad Khan at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. (Imagn Images photo pool) /
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The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 7, so the Jacksonville Jaguars still have plenty of time to decide whether they’ll place it on one of their potential free agents this season. If they do, it would be the third time in a row they’ll use the tag, having put it on left tackle Cam Robinson the last two years.

General manager Trent Baalke met with the local media ahead of the offseason and said he hopes the Jags don’t have to use the franchise tag this year.

“I’m hoping we don’t need to use it,” Baalke said. “Right now, we’re evaluating this team as a staff. Doug and the rest o the coaches are going through an end-of-the-season process that we’ve set up. Our personnel staff is doing the same thing. We’ll join forces tomorrow and meet for most o the morning to really put a plan in place for how we’re going to attack this offseason.

The Jaguars have 13 unrestricted free agents in 2023 and here are the most likely candidates to get slapped with the franchise tag.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars candidate for the franchise tag: Arden Key

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Arden Key (49) at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Las Vegas Raiders made defensive end Arden Key a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in hopes of bolstering their pass rush. However, they moved on from him after three uneventful seasons in 2021. The former LSU Tiger then signed with the San Francisco 49ers and went on to have a career year, registering 6.5 sacks, 22 total tackles, and 17 quarterback hits.

Following his productive season with the Niners, Key had the chance to sign with the Kansas City but instead inked a one-year deal with Jacksonville, calling it a bigger challenge. He went on to become an important piece in the pass rush rotation and finished the 2022 season with 45. sacks, 27 total tackles, and 15 quarterback hits.

Key is set to become a free agent once again and re-signing him should be at the top of the Jaguars’ priority list. His 81.3 Pro Football Focus in 2022 is the highest among the team’s pending free agents and should have a robust market if he hits the open market.

Of all the candidates on this list, Key is the least likely to get the tag. He certainly deserves to get paid but using the tag on a role player that appeared in less than 50 percent of the team’s total snaps doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective. Then again, you should always expect the unexpected when it comes to the NFL.

Chances of getting the franchise tag: 5 – 10  percent