Jacksonville Jaguars Sign Christian Kirk, Evan Engram
NFL Offseason - The Jacksonville Jaguars, the busiest team in the NFL in the opening hours of the “legal tampering” period of pre-free agency, signed former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk to what NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting as a four-year deal worth $72-million. Hours later, the Jaguars added former Giants tight end Evan Engram on a reported one-year, $9-million deal with incentives.
News of the Kirk signing came just minutes after reports that the Jaguars also added former Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff, former New York Jets defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi and former Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun. The Jaguars entered free agency with approximately $40 million in cap space and appeared eager to spend it all long before March Madness officially tips off.
Kirk, whom the Cardinals used mostly in the slot, ranked eighth in DVOA and ninth in DYAR in 2022, catching 77 passes for 982 yards and five touchdowns. Kirk’s role increased when DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore were unavailable late in the year for the Cardinals: he caught 28 passes for 356 yards and one touchdown in six December and January games, including the Cardinals’ playoff loss.
Kirk is a “deep slot” type whose average depth of target of 11.7 yards ranked seventh among receivers with 50 targets from the slot, per Sports Info Solutions. As such, Kirk can replace some of the deep production the Jaguars will lose if DJ Chark signs elsewhere. Kirk’s skill set also won’t necessarily clash with incumbent “heavy slot” receiver Laviska Shenault any more than it clashed with Moore’s screens-and-reverses jitterbug game.
Engram caught 46 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns in 2021. He's one of the most physically gifted tight ends in the NFL, but he has hands like ankles. Engram dropped six passes in 2021 and 11 in 2020, per Pro Football Reference. Engram's role in the Giants offense evaporated late last season, though it could also be said that the Giants offense itself evaporated and left Engram and others flapping around like a fish in a Faith No More video.
Doug Pederson may be loading up on slot targets for Trevor Lawrence to use the way Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks relied upon Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz for a mix of easy-to-execute RPOs and deeper routes.
Overall Impact of Christian Kirk and other Jaguars signings: Every Jaguars move looks fine in isolation, but the Jaguars do appear to be spending lots of money just to grind their gears. Scherff upgrades the offensive line, but the Jaguars could probably have retained Andrew Norwell for less money. Kirk may be a better system fit than Chark, but pure deep threats like Chark are harder to find than slot receivers, and the Jaguars may have grossly overpaid for the type of player that can often be found on Day 2 of the draft. Engram is a pricey acquisition with no long-term guarantees: if he conquers the dropsies, he'll just hit the market as a hot commodity in 2023.
The Jaguars roster is improving, but they are burning a lot of resources to improve from rock bottom to mediocrity. Even in the AFC South, that’s not a sound formula for success.
Overall Impact of Christian Kirk and other Jaguars signing: Of course, all the big bucks and semi-lateral moves will prove worthwhile if Kirk and Engram catch 150 passes as Lawrence’s developmental security blanket, with Scherff providing protection and Fatukasi/Oluokun/Insert Your Favorite Rookie Edge Rusher keeping games close so the Jaguars can cease being a punchline and start setting bigger goals in 2023. The Jaguars’ primary objective in 2022 is to repair, develop and preserve Lawrence. Kirk should help with that, and he should put up some useful fantasy numbers as well. Remember that our KUBIAK projections price in the possibility of injuries; Kirk will probably catch more than 80 passes if he's healthy for all 17 games.
Christian Kirk's early KUBIAK projections @fboutsiders
On ARI: 62-764-4.9 (40th WR)
On JAX: 77-901-4.9 (27th WR)
Pending other moves, Kirk looks like the No. 1 WR in Jacksonville and sneaks into the top 30 WRs in fantasy with more targets and an ascending Trevor Lawrence.
— Scott Spratt (@Scott_Spratt) March 14, 2022