5 reasons the Bortles deal makes sense for Jaguars

Quarterback signed to contract extension Saturday


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars’ signing of Blake Bortles to an extension Saturday caught some by surprise. There were national reports just a day earlier that the Jaguars were “actively exploring their quarterback options.” The decision to sign Bortles gives the Jaguars some flexibility. There are five big reasons why the signing of Bortles makes sense.

1. It means they didn’t sign Kirk Cousins to a huge contract. Cousins is looking for a free agent deal in the $25 million per season range. Even if the Jaguars thought Cousins was an upgrade over Bortles, the secondary impact of signing Cousins could have been disastrous. The Jaguars have proven stars they will have to re-sign in the coming seasons. Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue are bargains right now, playing on their rookie contracts. Ngakoue counts less than $1 million against the Jaguars cap. Ramsey, because he was a first-round pick, is in at $6.368 million on the cap, the 11th highest paid player on the Jaguars roster after the Bortles deal. At some point in the next year or two, the Jaguars figure to be in talks with both players to keep them around. A deal with Cousins could have hamstrung the Jaguars when it came to signing their own proven stars.

2. It creates some flexibility within the salary cap for future years. If Bortles played in 2018 on his fifth-year option, he would have cost the Jaguars $19.053 million against the cap. This deal averages $18 million per season, but also gives the Jaguars the chance to do what many teams do with their quarterback’s contract: Treat the quarterback like the salary cap bank. If the Jaguars look to sign other players in future offseasons, and they can restructure Bortles’ deal again to create salary cap room. You can’t do that with a one-year deal  or with a contract on its last year.

3. Stability. Bortles and the rest of the Jaguars know who the quarterback will be in 2018 (and beyond?). There was some sense that the Jaguars could move on from Bortles after this year, and while the team did its due diligence in evaluating the market, something special would have to have come available for Bortles to be let go. The players in the Jaguars’ locker room respect Bortles toughness, a fact noted by Tom Coughlin in a statement: “Blake has proven, with his toughness and dependability, that he can be the leader this team needs going forward. Along with this contract come high expectations that he will continue to improve and help our team accomplish its ultimate goal.”

That’s not unreasonable, effusive praise by the Jaguars executive vice president of football operations, but it is an accurate assessment. That tells you all you need to know about where Coughlin is on Bortles. Basically, Coughlin saw Bortles get better and show some positive traits, but he still must improve to get the Jaguars to where they want to be.

4. It removes a potentially destructive eventuality from the equation. What if Bortles played on his fifth-year option and had a career year? Then, the Jaguars would be forced to sign him to an even bigger contract next season or risk losing him. Is it realistic to expect that with another year under Nathaniel Hackett--with, potentially, more weapons around him and with his wrist healthier after offseason surgery--that Bortles could do better than his 21 touchdown, 13 interception season in 2018? Yes. Based on his age and performance, spotrac.com projects that Bortles market value is $21.3 million per year. The Jaguars got him for $18 million per year. If he plays well, he wouldn’t get any cheaper after next year. That could find the Jaguars having to make a salary cap decision to keep their quarterback or let him go. It’s a position in which no team wants to find themselves.

5. It buys the team time to decide when they need to find their next starting quarterback. Some are promoting the Jaguars to draft a quarterback this year. With the 29th pick of the first round, they should address needs on the team like pass catching tight end, interior offensive line or, perhaps, wide receiver. Using a late first-round pick on a backup doesn’t seem to be the wisest of moves. The Jaguars have some time to find “the next guy.” Perhaps, if Bortles continues to improve, that next guy won’t be needed for several years. Use the draft picks to find guys who can help immediately.

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