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The Jacksonville Jaguars were quite busy in free agency and ended up handing out the most guaranteed money in NFL history. However, their spending spree wasn’t just full of expensive long-term deals but one with value signings, too.
On defense, the most notable value signing was the addition of edge rusher Arden Key, who previously played with the San Francisco 49ers and will be a key part of the defensive rotation. The Jags were able to sign him to a one-year deal worth $4 million, with $3 million guaranteed.
The best part about the signing is that the Jags are getting key after his best season as he had a career-high of 6.5 sacks. He also had a career year in quarterback pressures, which helped him to register a 79.4 pass-rush grade, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s why they listed Key’s addition as the Jags’ best offseason move when looking at all 16 teams in the AFC.
Here is what analyst Brad Spielberger specifically had to say about Key’s addition:
Key set career highs across the board in 2021, with a 79.4 pass-rush grade and 36 quarterback pressures on just 260 pass-rush snaps. Most notable was his late-season transition to playing more as a 3-technique and 4i on the interior in passing situations, which led to the best football of his career. From Weeks 13-18, Key’s 90.8 pass-rush grade was the top mark among edge defenders, and his 24 quarterback pressures tied for sixth over the span.
Key’s versatility could enable the Jaguars to deploy Josh Allen and Walker on the edge with Key and Roy Robertson-Harris on the interior in obvious passing situations — a potentially strong third-down unit as the season progresses.
Part of the reason the Jags had interest in Key is that the assistant who worked with him as a rookie in Oakland, Brentson Buckner, is now their defensive line coach. With the veteran player making significant progress since he was last with Buckner, their reunion could lead to Key surpassing last season’s performance. When considering the Jags’ struggles to rush the passer, that would be huge.
Key’s contract cost the Jags very little when looking at what they came into this offseason with in terms of the salary cap. If he can continue to grow as a pass-rusher, that sets him up to not only be a gem for the team, but one of the best 2022 free-agent additions in the whole league.