2023 NFL free agency: Arden Key felt ‘disrespected’ by Jaguars, pass rusher chose to join AFC South rival

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NFL free agency can sometimes get messy. As clubs look to re-sign players hitting the open market, there’s the possibility of some bad blood boiling to the surface, which leads to a departure. For Arden Key and the Jaguars, it appears they may have fallen into this category. The pass rusher entered free agency earlier this month and he told reporters on Monday that he was upset that Jacksonville didn’t push more to keep him in town. 

“With Jacksonville, it was a shock to me. After the year, I thought I was going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar,” Key said via the Florida Times-Union. “I felt disrespected because I came in over there, built up the culture, brought a whole lot of energy, changed the city, changed the town. I felt like in my rightful mind, I was going to be a Jacksonville Jaguar. That didn’t happen.”

With the Jaguars not showing the proper interest in Key’s mind, he turned around and inked a three-year, $21 million deal with the AFC South-rival Tennessee Titans. That means, Key will have an opportunity to get revenge against his former club twice a season. 

“I still love the players, love the teammates, love the city, love the fans, but yeah, we gotta see them twice,” he added.

Key initially entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the Raiders in 2018 out of LSU. He spent his first three years in the NFL with the franchise before signing a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers in the spring of 2021. There, he enjoyed a career year, piling up 6.5 sacks in 17 games played for the Niners in the regular season. That production then led him to another one-year deal with the Jaguars last year and proved to be a valuable pass-rushing piece. The 26-year-old had the third-most sacks on the team in 2022 with 4.5 to go along with 15 quarterback hits. 

Tennessee was in the bottom half of the league in sacks last season and almost squarely in the middle in pressure rate, so the addition of Key should help as the Titans look to take down his former Jags team in the AFC South in 2023.