Skip to main content

Jaguars Mailbag: How Can the Jaguars Replace Arden Key?

In this week's mailbag, we take questions on Arden Key, the No. 24 pick and more.

Each week during the offseason, we will be taking questions on the biggest questions facing the Jacksonville Jaguars until Week 1.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguar Report Twitter handle or by submitting them here.

In this week's mailbag, we take questions on Arden Key, the first week of free-agency, and more.

Q: Is O'Cyrus Torrence Himmothy? On a real note - Keion White. I think hes a dawg and a mid first rounder, where are you on him & the Jaguars?

A: Torrence is definitely a good player. He isn't the next once-in-a-decade guard prospect or anything like that, but he should be a first-round pick in this class and, ultimately, projects as a solid starter as a rookie. 

As for Keion White, he is one of this year's more polarizing prospects. He is a sixth-year senior and 24-years-old but is still seen as a project and a traits pick. This is always a red flag, even when you consider the fact that White spent his first two years of college as a tight end at Old Dominion. 

Still, White is an athletic freak who has a ton of length, power, explosiveness, and versatility. He is a risky prospect, but he also fits a lot of the traits the Jaguars look for in a pass-rusher.

Q: How exactly are the Jaguars going to replace Arden Key? Any veteran options? 

A: It is a fair question to ask. Key was arguably the Jaguars' best pass-rusher on a per-snap basis last year, earning high marks in essentially every efficiency metric possible. Key wasn't an all-world pass-rusher or anything like that, but he was a good player who filled an important role and was ultimately as productive as anyone else on Jacksonville's defensive line. 

With that said, here is how I see the Jaguars' options when it comes to replacing Key. 

The first option is via draft and development. Key isn't a player you can easily replace with a rookie, but a rookie combined with an improved Travon Walker could help the pass-rush recover from Key's loss. The Jaguars need the rookie to produce and need Walker to actually take the next step, though. which is easier said than done.

The next option would be to look for veteran pass-rushers to take fliers on. I wouldn't expect the Jaguars to do this soon -- they could even do it after the draft so that any signings do not count toward the compensatory pick formula and potentially erase one of their three projected 2024 comp picks. 

A few veterans who make sense: Jadeveon Clowney, Jordan Willis, Melvin Ingram, and Markus Golden.

Q: Who's the most likely guy to start falling during draft night who Jags may move up to take?

A: I could see Darnell Wright falling well below where he should be drafted because teams view him as a right tackle, similar to Tristan Wirfs coming out of Iowa in 2020. Wirfs had the tape of a top-5 pick but went closer to the middle of the first-round because he wasn't a left tackle. I think similar could happen with Wright, who has the tape to justify being the first offensive lineman selected this year.

I could also see Joey Porter Jr. going later than people think. Some mocks have him in the top-10, but it seems clear the NFL sees him as the No. 3 cornerback in this class at best, with him being slotted behind Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon.

Q: John do you think there will be any more restructuring of contracts at this point? Thank you

A: Maybe. They could extend Jamal Agnew or Rayshawn Jenkins, release K'Lavon Chaisson, or extend Josh Allen to free up space, which one way or another will have to be done to ensure the Jaguars can sign their rookie draft class. So in short, I do think the Jaguars will perform more cap-related moves to help free up space. I do not think any moves are immediately imminent, however. 

Q: What are the Jaguars gonna do at TE? Tagging Engram was obviously the big piece, but the depth chart after him is looking pretty bleak.

A: The draft will probably be where the Jaguars find their No. 3 tight end. As things stand today, I do think Luke Farrell has the inside track to being the team's No. 2 tight end. The staff is high on his skill-set and he is considered to be a potential breakout candidate entering his third season. Perhaps the Jaguars target a tight end early to overlap Farrell on the depth chart, but it is worth remembering that the No. 2 tight end position isn't exactly a heavily-utilized role in Doug Pederson's Jaguars' offense.

So I do think the Jaguars will add a tight end via the draft, but as of right now I think the top two names on the tight end depth chart are already on the roster with Evan Engram and Farrell. 

Q: Will Travon Walker be used in any different way in 2023?

A: Perhaps the Jaguars open up his responsibilities some and allow him to play inside more often in 2023, but I do not think you are going to see him go from being an edge rusher to being a full-time interior defensive lineman or anything like that. Walker played just 25 snaps inside last year according to Pro Football Focus, a number that should obviously change in 2023. But in terms of split between edge snaps and interior snaps, I would still bet Walker plays at least 80% of his snaps as an edge rusher next year.

Q: What are your thoughts on if the Jags will acquire any veteran players via the trade market. The reason I ask is that if we trot out Day 1 with this pass rush unit I absolutely don't think the Jags will win the "big" games. And if it's not a veteran then I think a big move up the draft is needed to acquire a player for the future. I guess it also depends too if Josh Allen is in their long-term plans. Do you think he is?

A: I do not think the Jaguars are in a position to make a move for anyone who would potentially be available. Perhaps if there was a Brian Burns-level pass-rusher available it would be a different story, but teams do not normally just give away impact pass-rushers. The only player who I think would qualify in this scenario is Minnesota Vikings pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith, but I do not think the Jaguars are at the point in their build where they should be dumping draft picks for veterans unless they are blue-chip players.

Q: What are your best and worst-case scenarios at 24?

A: Best case? I think Darnell Wright, Brian Branch and Joey Porter Jr. all make sense. All are better players than one would expect to be available at No. 24 overall, but there are varying reasons why each could be there. Wright is mostly a right tackle, Branch is a small defensive back who ran a slow 40 and may be seen as a nickel-only, and Porter Jr. may not appeal to all defensive schemes. 

As for worst-case, I think Antonio Johnson or Mazi Smith qualify. Both are prospects who can bring things to the table and potentially improve the Jaguars' defense, but neither is a first-round pick, even in this class.

Q: Calijah Kancey doesn’t have the typical size the Jaguars look for in DL but do you think his potential versatility (inside or out) on the line could make up for his size and make him a Day 1 Jaguars pick if he falls? Also curious if you would prefer Kancey or Bresee for the jags. Thanks for your time and it was always the jags! 

A: I love to believe in outliers when it comes to the NFL Draft, but Calijah Kancey is a bit too far for me. I would probably prefer Bryan Bresee if I was a general manager because Kancey's lack of size is simply too significant. Aaron Donald was short, but he was stocky and packed a lot of power. Kancey is simply small, and that is why I do not think the Jaguars will be overly interested. It is a big man's game, as Trent Baalke says.