The Jacksonville Jaguars really went for it on Day 1 of the NFL’s legal tampering period ahead of the NFL free agency period. Not only did they land former Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff, but they also offered up a boatload of money to two defenders most fans have never heard of and shook up the market by agreeing to a four-year, $72 million contract with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk.
Christian Kirk’s contract proves Jaguars operate on their own planet
While the Jaguars often need to overpay free agents to attract them to Duval County, the stink of the failed Urban Meyer era and the return of much-maligned GM Trent Baalke have forced the team to offer up a mint to pretty much all potential additions. There’s no greater example of the Jaguars’ separation from the rest of the league than Kirk’s contract, which hovers between lunacy and outright negligence of the salary cap.
According to what PFN Insider Aaron Wilson has been able to confirm, Kirk’s contract has a maximum value of $84 million with a $72 million base value. Kirk will receive a $20 million signing bonus, guaranteed base salaries of $1.5 million and $15.5 million in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and salaries of $14.5 million and $15.5 million in 2024 and 2025.
Additionally, Kirk will see an annual $500,000 workout bonus, up to $500,000 per year in per-game active roster bonuses, and $3 million in annual incentive clauses, according to league sources.
Did Christian Kirk deserve this free agent contract?
Forget about the $33 million in the deal that isn’t guaranteed. Over the next two seasons, Kirk will average an alarming $19.5 million per year (with annual workout and durability bonuses). This is a player who has never caught 80 passes or produced more than 1,000 receiving yards in a single campaign. He’s operated mostly out of the slot, and he’s only 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. At that size, he should be a burner, but instead, he simply has above-average speed.
Kirk is being paid like a top-10 receiver when his résumé screams solid No. 2 pass catcher. Now, the Jaguars will treat him like their go-to target, requiring second-year QB Trevor Lawrence to utilize him as such. That situation is comparable to telling your wife that you’re going to a swanky bed-and-breakfast, but you end up taking her to a Denny’s in front of a cheap motel. Sure, the same functions are there, but the setup is far from ideal.
Kirk is being paid significantly more than Dallas Cowboys wideout Michael Gallup, who despite coming off a torn ACL, has proven to be more consistent than Kirk. While Kirk is counting his millions of new bucks, Gallup is likely staring at his cell phone and wondering why his average salary is trumped by a comparable player by $7.5 million per year. The Cowboys moved Amari Cooper for Gallup, and the Cowboys wideout is still staring into the salary abyss in comparison to Kirk.
And by the way, Kirk isn’t a bad player. He’s proven to be extremely effective across the middle of the field, still has plenty of upside, and is only 25. But the sheer divide between his salary and Gallup’s shows that Baalke and the Jaguars are forced to overspend, largely due to reputation and lack of appeal.
Looking at the Jaguars’ free agency spending spree
The Jaguars’ overspending isn’t limited to just Kirk, either. New York Jets defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun were both gifted similarly over-priced deals in favor of first-day signings. It’s almost as if agents targeted the Jaguars to help raise their clients’ asking prices elsewhere and just finally latched on to the bait when their offers were laughably unattainable elsewhere.
The Jaguars had plenty of cap space, and they deserve to be praised for being aggressive, unlike the Indianapolis Colts, who sat on their hands with roughly $70 million to spend heading into the tampering period. But the outrageous markets they’ve created in the wake of their embarrassing need to overcompensate in free agency is a huge win for agents everywhere.
Oluokun led the league in tackles for a bad Falcons defense, while Fatukasi comes from a Jets defense that floundered under a former defensive coordinator as head coach. The Jaguars can try to polish up these signings as surefire grabs, and they very well might be, but the rest of the league is watching with smirks on their faces. Oluokun is set to make $15 million per year, while Fatukasi will be averaging $10 million per campaign.
That’s a boatload of money to pay two players who are solid pieces but offer little in the way of moving the needle. The Jaguars are paying superstar rates for proven role players because they aren’t a desirable landing spot after years of losing, head coach turnarounds, and embarrassing personnel mismanagement.
New head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell should bring optimism to Duval County, but Baalke’s presence continues to remind outsiders of the long-standing issues in Jacksonville. Until Pederson and company start turning things around, overpaying at an alarming rate will be the name of the game at TIAA Bank Field.