Valued Pass-Rusher Chooses AFC Non-Contender Over Chiefs: Report

Arden Key

Getty Arden Key celebrates a pass rush for the 49ers in 2021.

The Kansas City Chiefs are looking for some extra pass-rush help, which is why they brought in free-agent defensive end Arden Key for a visit recently, per the NFL’s personnel notice. However, Key opted to sign with a non-contender in the AFC instead of joining forces with Kansas City.

Key has signed a one-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on March 30. The deal is worth up to $7 million, per NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo.

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It’s unknown if Key was given an official contract offer from the Chiefs during his visit with them. Nevertheless, Key becomes the first player that visited the Chiefs this offseason that didn’t end up signing a deal with them.

Key is a former third-round pick of the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2018 NFL Draft. After struggling to make an impact on the field during his three seasons with the Raiders, Key was cut by Las Vegas in April of 2021, according to Pro Football Reference. He then signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers a week after being cut.

During the 2021 season, Key recorded career-highs in quarterback hits (17), sacks (6.5), and tackles for loss (5). It was a great bounce-back effort for a player that could have quickly found himself irrelevant in the NFL had he underperformed while on his first contract with San Francisco. Instead, Key earns his third contract in the NFL with Jacksonville.

Chiefs Might Wait Until Draft to Address Pass Rush

The Chiefs’ current defensive end room consists of Frank Clark, Mike Danna, Joshua Kaindoh, Austin Edwards, Malik Herring, and Jonathan Woodard. With Key officially signing elsewhere, Kansas City might wait until the draft to add to its pass-rush unit.

With improved play from Mike Danna in his second year and much to be learned about 2021 draft pick Joshua Kaindoh, it makes sense that the Chiefs were interested in Key. He’s a low-profile, cheaper option at defensive end.

Frank Clark is taking up $13.7 million in cap space for 2022. Because of that, it would be wise for the Chiefs to refrain from signing another big-money pass-rusher to play opposite of Clark on the defensive line. Now that Key is locked up, if Kansas City decides to address the pass-rush unit via the draft, they will bring in a rookie or two, which would add talent to that position on a rookie deal.

Veteran pass-rusher Melvin Ingram is a potential option for Kansas City as well. Ingram didn’t sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers until July of the 2021 offseason and is taking a wait-and-see approach to free agency again this offseason. Ingram was very productive after being traded at the deadline from the Steelers to the Chiefs during the 2021 season. And at a reasonable rate, general manager Brett Veach has already said he would welcome Ingram back into the fold in 2022.

Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, turns 33 in April.

Twitter Reacts to Key Re-Signing With Jaguars

Twitter users reacted to Key signing with Jacksonville after visiting with the Chiefs.

“Now Arden Key is off the market, why not sign Jadeveon Clowney? He’s the best free agent edge and it would be great to take an edge before the draft to give Brett Veach more freedom. I like his pressure and he was good for the Browns last season, registering 9 sacks,” one Twitter user wrote about the Chiefs.

Now Arden Key is gone I’m happy for him tho last season was just a preview he’s gonna ball out for Jacksonville,” another user wrote. 


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