When the reports surfaced of the massive deal the Jacksonville Jaguars handed free-agent receiver Christian Kirk, social media exploded.
Despite never generating a 1,000-plus yard season, the Jags handed Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract with a max value of $84 million with incentives. The $18 million-per-year average puts Kirk in the top 10 of highest-paid players in the NFL, more than Mike Evans, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, Allen Robinson, Stefon Diggs and many others with more prolific careers.
Kirk isn’t worried about the perception that he’s overpaid and believes he has the talent to take his game to the next level.”I’m very confident in my potential and my ability,” Kirk said Thursday via the Associated Press. “I feel like I have so much more left in the tank to be able to show and be able to keep proving, not only to others but to myself that I’m the player I know I am.”
In 2021, Kirk had career-highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (982), leading the Cardinals in both categories — more than teammates A.J. Green (848) and DeAndre Hopkins (572), who each have more than 10,000 career receiving yards. With Hopkins injured for much of the season, it was Kirk’s time to shine, and he generated three games with 90-plus yards receiving in 2021; the WR had three such games in his first three seasons combined.
It’s the improvement in Year 4 that the Jags see as a springboard to even bigger things for Kirk. “I like pressure,” he said. “To a ‘T’, it motivates me. But that stuff is always going to be there, especially with free agency. … Anybody who gets signed during this period, there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to say they’re overpaid. Some of it is nonsense and you can use it as motivation, but my motivation is just to be the best player that I can be and reach all the goals and aspirations that I want to reach.
“I don’t play football to be average. I play football to be one of the best, and I came here with the same attitude and mentality. I’m going to work every day to do it while I’m here.” There are signs of Kirk’s burgeoning ability. He caught 74.8 percent of his targets in the 2021 season, fifth among 35 WRs with 100-plus targets. According to Next Gen Stats, he led the league in catch rate over expectation when aligned in the slot in 2021, his first season aligning in the slot on 35-plus percent of snaps (76.4 percent; the previous high was 33.6 percent in 2019).
Kirk brings the diversity to line up in the slot or out wide, and the Jags plan to exploit that ability under new coach Doug Pederson. “I think it’s pretty simple,” Kirk said. “I think it’s versatility and I think all those guys, they’re versatile. They move inside, they move outside and they make the big plays when they’re counted on. They impact the game, that’s No. 1 when you think about No. 1 guys.
“They have an impact on the game, not just on first and second down, but on third down, on fourth down, in the red zone. When the team needs a play or offense is in a slump, they’re able to kind of shift the momentum of the game and get the team back rolling. … I think those are those traits, and I believe I attain them all. Like I said, I’m just here to keep showing that I have it.”