The Jacksonville Jaguars spent big in free agency to upgrade the weapons around young quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The most head-turning deal was giving receiver Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract with a max value of $84 million if he hits all the incentives. For a receiver who never had a 1,000-yard season in four years in Arizona, $18 million per year sounds steep. But the Jags were in desperate need of speed and versatility on offense, so paying through the nose wasn't much of a choice.
Offensive coordinator Press Taylor, who previously worked on Doug Pederson's staff in Philadelphia and is considered an ascending offensive coach, recently told the Jaguars Happy Hour that Kirk brings needed flexibility to the offense.
"Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing is the versatility," Taylor said, via Jags Wire. "We can line him up all over the formation. He can do a number of different things. He can win on the outside. He's a great decision-maker with great speed, which you don't always hear that about receivers being great decision-makers, but he really is. So you can put him in positions to be able to adjust things and be able to get on the same page with Trevor."
Last year, Kirk ran most of his routes from the slot, taking 652 snaps from that spot while netting just 176 out wide. But in 2020, the figures were flipped, with Kirk lining up 633 times out wide and just 97 in the slot, per Next Gen Stats. The figures underscore Taylor's point that Kirk can win in different spots of the offense.
With the current makeup of the Jags' receiver corps, which includes Marvin Jones, Zay Jones and Laviska Shenault Jr., Kirk still projects to take most of his snaps from the slot in 2021, where he has the speed and size to beat nickel corners off the line.
The Jags also attempted to upgrade the tight end corps by inking former Giants first-round pick Evan Engram to a one-year, $9 million contract. It's a prove-it type deal that could work out well for both parties if Engram puts together a solid season.
Like Kirk, Taylor boasted of the versatility that Engram brings to the table.
"When we put Evan Engram on the field, who's going to cover him?" Taylor said. "Do you need to bring in a lighter body? Do you put a nickel on him? Do you put a safety on him? Do you put a linebacker on him, which we would ask for if you had to pick?"
It's true that Engram sports the physical gifts to be a difference-making receiving talent, but he was woefully inconsistent in five seasons in New York. His Big Blue run was marred by bad drops and injuries. The tight end played a major role in the Pederson offense in Philly, so Engram should have a chance to turn the narrative of his career around.
One thing is clear from Taylor's comments: The Jags valued versatility in their free-agent spree. Whether throwing money around in free agency will pay off is the big question heading into the season.