The Jaguars, as explained on Friday, are currently exploring their quarterback options in free agency. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be jettisoning Blake Bortles, who is under contract for one more year at $19 million.
The Jaguars, in theory, could decide after exploring the various available veteran quarterbacks (and learning what it would cost to sign them) to try to parlay Bortles’ fifth-year option into a multi-year extension.
The question then becomes what the Jaguars would pay Bortles, and what Bortles would want. With the top of the market currently at $27.5 million and the bar destined to be nudged considerably higher than that soon, what if Bortles were to take something like $20 million per year on a five-year deal?
Even at $20 million per year, Bortles would trail Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Case Keenum (likely), and A.J. McCarron (possibly, but not likely). That puts Bortles in the bottom half of the league, above only Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady (who averages a paltry $15 million per year), and the various young quarterbacks who have yet to get a second contract.
If the Jaguars were to go that route, it would represent a calculated effort to continue to entrust the job to Bortles while holding back enough money for the various other star players who will eventually be getting new contracts, like cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and running back Leonard Fournette.
From Bortles’ perspective, the prospect of the Jaguars finding a new quarterback and cutting him before his $19 million salary for 2018 become fully guaranteed should be a sobering one. If he were to be dumped onto a open market that has more free agents than ever before (and a glut of quality rookies), what would another team offer him?
Probably not $20 million per year.
However it plays out, the Jaguars have a team that came within a whisker of getting to the Super Bowl. They could hold the team together and continue to ride with Bortles, who is still only 25.