Jacksonville Jaguars made tough business decision with DE Arden Key

Dec 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Arden Key (49). Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Arden Key (49). Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't added any players in free agency but they've let a few walk, including defensive end Arden Key, who was offered a three-year deal worth $21 million to join the Tennessee Titans. After a productive season with the Jags, Key will get to face off against them twice a year, something he looks forward to after leaving in less-than-optimal terms.

Key said in his introductory press conference to the Tennessee media that he thought he was going to stay with the Jags beyond 2022 and was disrespected by the offer he got from them.

"With me in San Fran, they told me straight up "we can't offer you anything. If we offered something to you", it would be disrespectful to you, so go test the market out and see", Key said. "With Jacksonville, it was a shock to me. I ain't going to line. After the year, I thought I was going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar".

"I felt disrespected because I came over there, build up the culture, brought a whole lot of energy. change the city, change the town. I felt in my rightful mind I was going to be Jacksonville Jaguar but that ain't happening. I still love the players, love the teammates, love the city, love the fans. But we've got to see them twice", Key said.

Key signed a one-year $7 million deal with the Jaguars last offseason because of the challenge they provided after spending the 2021 season with the San Francisco 49ers. He went on to become an integral part of their pass rush rotation and finished the year with 4.5 sacks, 27 total tackles, and five tackles for a loss. Moreover, he became a leader in their locker room, a role he embraced after not doing much of note early in his NFL career.

A third-round pick by the Las Vegas Raiders in 2018, Key only posted three sacks in his first three seasons. He was waived in 2021 and promptly picked up by the Niners, where he went on to post a career-best 6.5 quarterback takedowns. Here's a clip of Key's recent comments.

The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't have the space to bring back DE Arden Key

After going into a spending spree last year, it was going to be hard for the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep all their players from leaving this offseason. While they've been able to re-sign a handful, tight end Chris Manhertz, right tackle Jawaan Taylor and Arden Key changed teams in free agency.

The truth is that this is the business part of the NFL and it's not particularly shocking to see the Jags opt not to bring back Key. Maybe they shouldn't have made a disrespectful offer, as Key noted, but other than that, they simply didn't have the cap space to bring him back. Moreover, he was a role player, an important one but a role player nonetheless, so they should be able to overcome his loss.

Right now, the Jaguars have other more pressing needs such as cornerback and offensive tackle. And while it would have been great to see Key return, they couldn't re-sign him at the expense of neglecting other positions.

The Jaguars showed last offseason they aren't afraid to spend big in free agency. Similarly, they showed they aren't afraid to reward their own players, so letting Key walk seemed inevitable due to their lack of cap space. The silver lining is that he can show letting him sign with their division foes was a mistake when he faces them in the regular season.

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