There have been several reasons for the turnaround the Jacksonville Jaguars have undergone since the end of the 2021 season. Trevor Lawrence and head coach Doug Pederson are among the top two but wide receiver Christian Kirk has also played a pivotal role in changing the team's culture.
Just recently, Pederson appeared on The Pat McAfee Show and talked about the impact Kirk has had since landing in Jacksonville last year.
"Obviously, you want talented guys, right guys that can fit and guys that can fit in your culture, " Pederson told McAfee. "When you look last year, a year ago, in the free agent market, and Christian Kirk was available, he's somebody I enjoyed watching coming out of college at Texas A&M and thought that his college tape was really good. Of course, I was in Philadelphia at the time but I'm getting guys like him here. his work ethic during the week if you ever came and watched a week of practice and how hard he goes in practice."
"There's no hesitation, why he and Trevor are on the same page because they work extremely hard together. And those are the type of players you want. Zay Jones did the same thing, Calvin Ridley does the same thing, Evan does the same thing. It's just the way they work together and they're high character guys. They're the unselfish athlete, all they want to do is win, putting the time, putting the effort and it's paying off for our office, for our team right."
Since joining the Jaguars last year, he's become Trevor Lawrence's most trusted target in the passing game, reeling in 127 receptions for 1,627 yards with 11 touchdowns. Even after the arrival of fellow receiver Calvin Ridley, the former Texas A&M Aggie currently leads the team with 520 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Here's his jaw-dropping 44-yard catch that helped the Jaguars beat the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football:
Christian Kirk has been a free-agent bargain for the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars raised eyebrows when they gave Christian Kirk a four-year deal worth $72 million last year. The biggest criticism surrounding the signing was that Kirk was that he hadn't posted a 1,000-yard season during his four-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals. Similarly, his capability as a No. 1 receiver was put in question, having played alongside Larry Fitzgerald and DeAndre Hopkins. On top of that, some talking heads suggested the Jags had inadvertently (or intentionally) broken the wide receiver market.
However, a close look showed that Kirk showed he thrived as a WR1 in Arizona when given the chance. Also, the Jags recognized his big-play potential and believed it would translate well into their offense. At the time, general manager Trent Baalke said that nobody would care what Kirk got paid if he ended up living to expectations, and he was right.
Nobody calls Kirk overpaid anymore after setting career highs for catches and receptions in his first season with the Black and Teal. In fact, his deal now looks like a bargain when compared to those of his peers.
The bottom line is that the Jacksonville Jaguars have been pleased with Christian Kirk, and they're without a doubt that they paid him top-market money last year. While there's a good chance the Jags would still be successful without him, he's most definitely been an integral part of their turnaround over the last two years.