Jaguars Stay the Course with Bortles
(973espn.com) — Maybe believe the Jacksonville Jaguars are an upgrade at quarterback away from being a significant Super Bowl threat but the decision on Florida's First Coast turned out to be status quo.
Jacksonville is out of the quarterback market after giving the limited Blake Bortles a new three-year, $54 million deal with $26.5M of that guaranteed and escalators that could make the contract worth up to $66.5M if the former No. 3 overall pick reaches certain incentives.
From a practical standpoint it ties Bortles to the Jaguars through the 2020 season at a very desirous salary-cap number for the position when you consider the first domino that fell during the 2018 QB market, Jimmy Garoppolo becoming the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL after seven starts, and the rumors that the New York Jets are ready to throw $60M guaranteed at Kirk Cousins, a really good but hardly spectacular signal caller.
In the Jags' case Bortles was set to make just over $19M on his fifth-year rookie option picked up in May so Tom Coughlin and Dave Caldwell were able to alleviate the impact of that number in the short term and will be happy to pay out every dollar of this deal if the light comes on and Bortles suddenly becomes what he was supposed to as a former top-tier draft pick.
It's the definition of low risk and high reward but it's also hardly embracing a carpe diem-like attitude those on the cusp of championship glory often need to do.
The Jags were in the AFC Championship Game last season and in a position to win it but it was abundantly clear by how things played out that Doug Marrone was hardly comfortable in letting Bortles put his foot to the floor, instead playing it conservative and managing a flawed QB.
That mentality served Jacksonville well in the regular season as Bortles turned from bust to having the best season of his career, completing 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.
Those numbers, however, are hardly awe-inspiring in today's NFL landscape and the Jaguars brain trust revealed a game-manager mindset, one that seemed to point to Bortles no so much elevating the talent around him as much as being somewhat successful with a talented supporting cast.
The Jags already have one of the best defenses in football and a very solid running game fueled by Leonard Fournette and now need to upgrade Bortles' receiving options moving forward.
By renewing its vows with the QB before the new league year starts Jacksonville has essentially confirmed that's the plan.
"I've been around Blake for the past three seasons, only one as the head coach, but I have seen him grow considerably in all facets: the way he prepares, the way he takes care of his body, the way he leads the team, the way he holds himself and his teammates accountable," Marrone explained.
It's not the sexiest plan but it is better than the mind-numbing thought of Coughlin reuniting with a 37-year-old Eli Manning, spending significant money on a similarly flawed option, or starting over with another rookie.
"Blake's growth and development last season was a key to the success we had as a team," Coughlin said. "Blake has proven, with 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."
The Jaguars may not have the nicest lawn in town but when Coughlin looked around he surmised the grass on the other side wasn't any greener.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen