Christian Kirk isn’t worried about what the outside world thinks of what he and the Jaguars reportedly agreed to terms with during the legal tampering portion of free agency.
Kirk has been reported to have signed a four-year deal worth $72M, with $37.5M in guaranteed money along with incentives to push it to $84M.
That has quickly become the talk around the league among various pundits, fans, writers, and more as far too much for someone who hasn’t caught 1,000 yards in a single season yet. In 2021, Kirk caught 77 passes for 982 yards and five touchdowns.
But for Kirk, he isn’t worried about the talk surrounding his contract and understands it comes with the territory. In a way, it’s motivating, Kirk told the local media on Thursday during his introductory press conference.
“To a tee, it motivates me. But that stuff is always going to be there, especially with free agency,” Kirk said. “I think that’s just kind of the notion within free agency is anybody who gets signed during this period, there’s always going to be somebody that’s going to say they're overpaid.”
That’s the nature of free agency. Players earned the opportunity to negotiate with, for the most part, all 32 teams in the league. That presents an opportunity for the players themselves to “reset” the market for their particular position group of skill set.
With teams bidding against each other - and sometimes against themselves -, it always leads to bloated deals. Perhaps the most talented receiver in the league, new Las Vegas Raiders receiver Davante Adams signed the largest contract ever for any position that isn’t a quarterback - it’s the nature of the business.
The chatter surrounding contracts is usually nonsense, Kirk explained, and his ultimate motivation is to be the best player he can be.
“That’s why I wake up every day and work to be the best player that I can be,” he explained. “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.”
Kirk has shown that he can play at a high level in the NFL but has yet to be able to showcase his talents as a team’s go-to weapon in an offense. When he was drafted, Kirk was overshadowed by future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Then, just two years later, the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins, another potential HOF player, and last year the team signed AJ Green. Though Green is well beyond his prime, he also brings a pedigree that demands snaps, targets and attention, leading Kirk to be a bit overshadowed again.
But, what those additions did do was allow the Arizona Cardinals to put him in a position to succeed within the slot, moving him around more than he had previously with the franchise.
Now, he will have to do a bit more without those weapons surrounding him, something he embraces.
“I mean, I like pressure,” Kirk said when asked about life without the greats.
“I’m very eager,” he said of stepping out of his previous teammate’s shadows. “Like I said, I’m very confident in my potential, my ability, and I feel like I have so much more left in the tank, to be able to show and to be able to keep proving, not only to others but to myself that I’m the player that I know I am.
“So I’m just really happy for a fresh start and a new opportunity to be able to go out and do that.”
Kirk is confident in his abilities on the field, not only as just a slot receiver but a versatile weapon who can be utilized in multiple facets. According to Pro Football Focus, Kirk had 12 receptions of 20 yards or more, tied for the seventh-most in the NFL, tied with players such as Stefon Diggs, DeVonta Smith, Amari Cooper and Green.
His yards per route run, according to PFF was 1.80. For reference, the highest Y/RR in the NFL last season was Cooper Kupp at 3.12. Kirk was ranked as the No. 29 player in that metric behind Terry McLaurin (1.81).
What Kirk brings to the table, ultimately, is more speed for Jacksonville, a team that is in desperate need of it. For reference, the player with the most Y/RR with the Jaguars last year was Laquon Treadwell at 1.52. The next highest was Laviska Shenault at 1.36.
That was simply unsustainable in today’s NFL.
Kirk explained that Jacksonville was “very high” on his places to go during free agency, particularly because of the hiring of head coach Doug Pederson, someone he feels will be able to get the most out of his talents.
“I like to think that I’m very versatile and I like to hang my hat on that and being able to stretch to the field, make tough catches in the middle of the field and, just being able to stretch the field vertically and horizontally,” Kirk said of what he brings to the table.
“And so, to have a coach that’s going to be able to put his guys in the best area to make an impact and make those plays, it’s a confidence builder. I’m just really excited to see what He has planned for us week-in-and-week out.”